Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat, left, from Poland, guard Garrett Temple, guard Bradley Beal and guard John Wall cheer from the bench in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat, Monday, Dec. 1, 2014, in Washington. The Wizards won 107-86. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
The Washington Wizards have the look of a contending team that’s hitting their stride. At least that’s the impression they gave in a dominant week where they capped a four-game home stand on Dec. 5 with their fourth consecutive win and carved out a comfortable spot behind the Toronto Raptors as the top two teams in the Eastern Conference.
It all came together for the Wizards this past week as guards John Wall and Bradley Beal generated some pretty impressive outings, and the team received some quality play from its reserves. Washington (13-5 record) should continue to flash as one of the better teams in the conference and perhaps the league as long as good health follows their backcourt. Center Marcin Gortat continues to be a rock in the middle and the addition of several veterans is having a positive spin on the team. The AFRO examines what went right in the week that was for the Washington Wizards.
Dec 1: Wizards Blast Heat, 107-86
After a narrow 83-80 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans a few days prior, Washington opened the week, and the month, on Dec. 1 at home against the defending Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat. Minus LeBron James, the venom from the Verizon Center was still evident in their disdain for the Heat as Washington put on a show and blasted the visitors, 107-86. Washington received double-doubles from both Wall (18 points, 13 assists) and Gortat (15 points, 10 rebounds) while recently added and major contributor Rasaul Butler poured in a team-high 23 points and connected on three three-pointers. The game was over by the half as Washington scored 30-plus points in both opening quarters and led 64-49 at halftime. Miami even welcomed back Dwyane Wade in his second game from a seven-game absence due to a hamstring injury. Wade and Chris Bosh combined for 41 points, but the night belonged to the Wizards and they dominated the same team who beat them in the season opener, 107-95.
Dec 3: Wizards Dust-up Lakers, 111-95
Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) grabs a rebound against Denver Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler (21) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Dec. 5, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
A blowout win over the Heat is usually cause for a letdown but Washington opened its doors to the visiting Los Angeles Lakers on Dec. 3 and the abundance of Laker faithful packed the Verizon Center to near capacity. Los Angeles led by as many as 10 points in the second quarter, but Washington roared back to take a halftime lead before dusting off Kobe Bryant and Co., 111-95. Led by a group effort, Washington outscored the Lakers by 22 points over the remaining three quarters. Beal orchestrated the attack with 27 points and seven assists, while Wall (17 points, 15 rebounds) and Gortat (21 points, 11 rebounds) added another pair of double-doubles. Perhaps the biggest contributor, however, was the under-the-radar 20 rebounds that Kris Humphries snagged down, cementing his status as one of the top free agent pickups this summer. Five players scored in double figures for the Wizards, who completely blew the game wide open inside the final two minutes.
Dec 5: Wizards Run Through Denver, 119-89
Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) dribbles the ball against Denver Nuggets guard Ty Lawson (3) and Kenneth Faried, left, during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Dec. 5, 2014, in Washington. The Wizards won 119-89. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
After destroying two of the more popular teams in the NBA in consecutive home games, a Friday night “trap game” against the Denver Nuggets followed. In recent years, the Nuggets would have stolen that game from the hometown team, but this is a different Wizards team. Washington only outscored Denver by two points in the first quarter but they never looked back as they ran through the visiting Nuggets 119-89, their largest margin of victory in two years. It was a simply fantastic performance for the Wizards, and there hasn’t been too many times over the last few years where that statement could’ve been made about Washington. TheWizards put six players in the double figures and barely missed out on seven as Wall (9 points, 12 assists, 8 rebounds and two blocks) finished just shy of a triple-double and his third straight double-double. At one point in the first quarter, Wall found Beal in the same corner spot for three consecutive threes, giving a pulse that it was simply going to be Washington’s night. Humphries scored a team-high 20 points, and reserve center Kevin Seraphin scored 16 points, removing some of the shine from Nene’s return, who missed the previous five games. Even the oft-injured but still effective Nene added eight points and eight rebounds, capping a sheer dominant performance from the team.
Next: Following a Sunday road matchup with the Celtics in Boston, Washington will face Boston again on Dec. 8, only this time at home at the Verizon Center. The Wizards will then travel to Orlando to take on the Magic on Dec. 10, followed by a home game against the L.A. Clippers on Dec. 12 and another home game against the Utah Jazz on Dec. 14.