April 21, 2014

Washington Wizards Game 82 Recap: Wizards Rout Celtics to Clinch No. 5 Seed in East

Photo tweeted by @DrewGooden with the caption "Headed back DC! Let's get it!!"

Photo tweeted by @DrewGooden with the caption “Headed back DC! Let’s get it!!”

Bradley Beal scored 27 points and all five of the Washington Wizards’ starters reached double-digit scoring as the Wiz Kids topped the Boston Celtics 118-102 at TD Garden Wednesday night.

With the win, the Wizards finish the regular season six games above .500 and secure the Eastern Conference’s No. 5 seed. Washington will take on the Chicago Bulls in their first playoff appearance since 2008.

At the end of the first quarter, it was clear Washington was going to run with the lead. John Wall tallied 13 of the Wizards’ 38 points in the first 12 minutes of play, and the team played like a cohesive unit counting down the days to the postseason.

The Celtics nearly matched the Wizards’ efforts in the second quarter as Chris Johnson and Jeff Green helped the team to a quick 11-3 run. With roughly six minutes left in the half, Nene and Beal hit a three each to keep the Celtics at bay and Washington took advantage of free baskets to end the half up 68-56.

The third proved a slower quarter for both teams. Washington went nearly two and a half minutes before sinking a basket and, in that time frame, Boston pulled within four points.

But, at last, it was the Wizards’ night to celebrate the end of the regular season, knowing there is still basketball left to be played.

In the final five minutes of play, Washington went on an offensive drive, shutting down the Celtics to regain a 16-point lead to end of the quarter.

Beal had a field day in the fourth, posting 12 points to help the Wizards write off the season with a 118-102 win.

The Wizards will first face the No. 4 Chicago Bulls (44-34) on the road on Easter Sunday, April 20, at 7:00 p.m. ET.

Game two will take place in Chicago on Tuesday, April 22 at 9:30 p.m. ET.

And, the Washington Wizards will return home Friday, April 28, to take on the Bulls in an ESPN primetime game at 8:00 p.m. ET.

Game four is slated for Sunday, April 27 at 1:00 p.m.

If necessary, game five will take place in Chicago on Tuesday, April 29; game six will take place in Washington on Thursday, May 1, and Game seven will send the two teams back to Chicago for a sudden-death matchup on Saturday, May 3.

Washington Wizards Game 81 Recap: Wiz Scorch Undermanned Heat

While the Miami Heat opted to sit LeBron James and Chris Bosh, the Washington Wizards seized the opportunity, recording one of their strongest offensive performances of the year in their 114-93 win Monday night at the Verizon Center.

The Heat essentially forfeited the top seed and home-court advantage in the Eastern Conference playoffs to the Indiana Pacers by sitting their star players, but Washington had no reservations about controlling the pace of the game.

“We’ve seen enough of these games where they haven’t played some of their guys and we lost,” said Wizards head coach Randy Wittman after the game. “Anytime you can get out and play… I thought the way we did from an offensive standpoint, moving forward, can’t hurt you.”

Washington led by as many as 36 points and shot 59 percent from the field. Trevor Ariza seemed to bounce back from his recent bout with the flu, leading the Wizards’ scoring with 25 points on the night.  Nene and Al Harrington added 18 and 16 respectively, while Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat rounded out the double-digit club. [Read more...]

Washington Wizards Game 75 Recap: Wiz Dominate Celtics to Secure Playoff Berth

Photo courtesy of Monumental Sports

Photo courtesy of Monumental Sports

For the first time since 2008, the Washington Wizards are playoff-bound.

Long before time ran out on the Wizards’ 118-92 win over the Boston Celtics Wednesday night, the truth set in: Washington will be treated to extra basketball this spring, and Wall will, at long last, make his postseason debut.

“It’s great, it’s everything I’ve been waiting for as a point guard and trying to learn how to lead in this league and become a better player but also I think the fans deserve it,” Wall said. “The tough time they went through of them booing us and us feeling bad when we’re not playing good or playing the right way and having the right people around the organization. Those guys in the front office and the coaching staff are doing a great job of building us as players and trusting in their system and going out there and playing as a group and one whole team… It means a lot.”

Wall posted 13 points and 10 assists in Wednesday’s contest as the Wizards worked their way to a 62.5 field goal percentage – their highest in a game since 2001.

And, though the road to the top of the Eastern Conference was paved nicely for Washington this season, for many in the District who have stuck through the Wiz Kids’ past few seasons, the reality of a playoff berth takes some getting used to.

“I’m just as thrilled too,” said Wizards head coach Randy Wittman. “This is an opportunity for me as a head coach, this is my first time and I’m looking forward to it. But we have seven games. We kept saying, let’s get ourselves in… [I say all the time that] I’m worried about how we’re playing and the process we’re going about, more than getting a win here and there, and wins and losses take care of themselves. [Wednesday's win] is a perfect example of that. This is the most we have swung that ball side to side for 48 minutes in a long time and it gets you 29 assists. We have to play that way. We got stagnant in Charlotte the other night in the third quarter where the ball never moved.

“You’re going to have lapses,” he continued. “There are good lapses and bad lapses. You miss open shots, you miss a couple of free throws here and there, and the other team goes on a run. I didn’t think we had a bad lapse today where one guy came down nine times and dribbled the ball and took a shot. Or we threw one pass and took a shot, unless it was a wide open shot. I know these guys were itching for this, and I know they peeked in the video room at half time to check on the New York score and they were up 35. I told them we have to go out and do it ourselves.”

And so, they did.

Marvin Gortat led Washington’s scoring effort with 22 points, but all five of the Wizards’ starters reached double-digit points before day’s end.

“I think we just played the right way,” Gortat said. “I just think we played the right way, we were swinging the ball perfectly. We had an in-and-out game. We ran different stuff and each one of us contributed to that win. It was a great night.”

From the opposite side of the court, Jared Sullinger did his best to prevent the Celtics from dropping their sixth straight game, adding 25 points to their total. But, Boston failed to ever take the lead and posted dismal numbers across the board.

In fact, less than five minutes into the game, the Celtics trailed by 15 points. Their late turnovers proved costly and, on the whole, their three-point strategy just did not work – they shot 3 for 24 from behind the arc. In fact, they struggled to find the net from all areas of the court, as they shot just 39.5 percent from the field on the night.

And still, several of the Celtics paused to recognize the fact that the night marked a moment Wall has long awaited.

“I wish him well,” Celtics guard Rajon Rondo said after the game. “It’ll be fun, exciting. Every game is on T.V. Guys love to play on T.V., I know I do. It’ll be fun. I’m sure he’s been waiting for this opportunity, I think he’s been like four or five years. For such a young guy to have so much pressure on him, having a franchise on his back, and he’s finally able to get to the playoffs, I’m sure it’s kind of like a burden lifted off of him. I’m sure he doesn’t want to settle there. I’m sure he wants to win, but you just have to take it one series at a time.”

Yet, as the Wizards may look to cruise through the remaining regular-season matchups, perhaps none can breathe quite the same sigh of relief as Wittman himself who, in little more than two years with the Wizards, assumed responsibility of fulfilling the do-or-die mantra.

“I think we stuck together,” he said. “It’s a great group of guys that the front office put together and we stuck together. We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs, a lot of injuries here and there, but ever since the last couple of years we built it. Now we have the pieces together and now we’re in the playoffs.”

Washington Wizards Game 73 Recap: With playoff berth in sight, Wiz edge past Hawks

With their first playoff berth since 2008 in sight, the Washington Wizards held on to top the Atlanta Hawks 101-97 Saturday night.

A Sunday win by the Golden State Warriors over the New York Knicks could seal the deal for the Washington team which continues to insist their focus has been on winning the games at hand. But, the Wiz Kids, without a doubt, will keep their eyes peeled for what happens at Oracle Arena.

“We’re just trying to play basketball the right way like we did the last three games and find a way to win,” guard John Wall said after Saturday’s game. “We had a bad stretch in that west coast trip and came back and lost games and then we got back on the right track and we are just trying to stay that way. We knew these two games were pretty big for us and the game on Monday is even bigger against Charlotte that’s coming to try to get our sixth spot.”

“I just want to finish the season strong, make sure that we’re going to secure a good spot and then we’re going to think about playoffs,” added center Marcin Gortat.

Still, in the here and now, the Wizards will have to figure out how to hold onto games without losing momentum in the final minutes of play. In Saturday’s win, Washington led by 10 points with just 2:38 remaining in the game before the Hawks scored eight straight points to make it 99-97 Wizards.

Luckily for Washington, Drew Gooden made two free throws with seven seconds remaining, to bring the Wizards to their 101-97 final.

As Gortat eloquently stated after the game: “”We call this fatigue and [being]  too relaxed. I’m glad we won that game. Otherwise, I’d probably shoot myself at home.”

Wall was the star of the game with 25 points and seven rebounds, and Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza added 14 and 13 points, respectively. Washington also enjoyed a huge advantage off the boards, thanks in part to Gortat’s 11 rebounds. The Wizards recorded 44 rebounds, to just top  the Hawks’ 40, but, in the second half, Washington outrebounded Atlanta 26-17.

An added element to the game was the fact that the two teams had to overcome slippery conditions, resulting from Saturday afternoon’s Washington Capitals game at the Verizon Center. The matchup between the Caps and Boston Bruins pushed back the Wizards’ start time by an hour, and yet players from both Washington and Atlanta commented that the floor was slippery and could have caused player injury.

“Everywhere was slippery and to be honest we were scared to make a move,” Wall said. “The situation with Trevor [Ariza] I mean he could have torn a groin or anything. So at certain times you’d see certain guys just start to fall and slide and it was getting worse and worse so I don’t know, they didn’t fall the first half but we did the second half.”

Washington Wizards Game 70 Recap: Wiz commit 24 turnovers in loss to Nuggets

As Washington Wizards head coach Randy Wittman said following Sunday’s 105-102 loss to the Denver Nuggets, the Wiz have given games away.

And, at some point before Washington’s 24th turnover, it became clear Sunday’s game was practically gift-wrapped for the 32-38 Nuggets.

Forward Kenneth Faried led Denver’s push with 20 points and eight rebounds and Randy Foye added another 17 points. To add salt to the wounds, former Wizard Jan Vesely tallied 10 points before leaving in the third quarter with a bruised rib cage.

On Washington’s side, Bradley Beal posted 21 points, but he could do little to offset John Wall’s eight turnovers.

After leading by as many as 14 points with 2:28 remaining in the first quarter, the Wizards began their skid.

Denver out-shot Washington 26-20 in the second quarter, which allowed the Nuggets to creep in front.

Beal and Marcin Gortat combined for 11 points in the first three minutes of the third quarter to regain a temporary lead, but the Nuggets were too quick to the bucket.

The Nuggets trailed by a point with 8:40 remaining in the game before embarking on a 9-1 run.

And, though the Wizards outscored the Nuggets in the fourth quarter, it was too little too late. To seal the deal, the Nuggets hit seven of eight free throws in the final minute of play.

With the loss, the Wizards rounded out their four-game road trip with a 1-3 record.

Washington Wizards Game 68 Recap: Wizards drop second straight with loss to Trail Blazers

John Wall tallied 24 points and 14 assists, but the Washington Wizards fell 116-103 to a Portland Trail Blazers team still without LaMarcus Aldridge.

If the Wizards want to fight for a playoff spot – their first since 2008 – they’re going to have to put games like Thursday night’s loss behind them. With two more road Western Conference games remaining in this stretch, Washington is currently sixth in the East.

Still, many of the playing habits coach Randy Wittman has tried to break returned, as Washington seemingly ran out of gas in the second quarter, allowing Portland an 8-0 run.

They never quite regained momentum, either.

In the third quarter, the Blazers outshot Washington 33-22, thanks in part to six made threes. By the end of the night, Portland made 14 of 35 three-point attempts and shot 50.6 percent from the field. Even more, both Wesley Matthews and Damian Lillard topped the 20-point mark with 28 and 23, respectively.

The Wizards couldn’t quite pull it together in the fourth quarter to put up much of a fight. For a while, they seemed to test the three-point strategy effectively as Drew Gooden, Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza each sank long jumpers in the span of two minutes. But, Washington’s defense could not slow Matthews and Lillard, who continued to work their way over the 20-point threshold until the final 2:30 of the game.

Perhaps the most telling example of Washington’s up-and-down performance as of late was the fact that Wall himself provided some Jekyll-and-Hyde action. The Wizards’ point guard scored 13 points in the first quarter, zero in the second, 11 in the third and zero in the fourth.

Washington will look to recover some ground Friday night as the team takes on the (22-45) Los Angeles Lakers, who have now dropped three straight contests.

Washington Wizards Game 67 Recap: Thomas, Kings roll past Wizards in OT

The Washington Wizards were poised to start their four-game west coast trip with a win, leading by as many as 11 points in the fourth quarter.

Marcin Gortat and Bradley Beal each posted 19 points apiece and Drew Gooden added another 18 to lead the six Wizards who reached double-digit points Tuesday night.

But, the Sacramento Kings – led by Isaiah Thomas – simply outplayed the now 35-32 squad as Washington fell 117-111 at Sleep Train Arena. Thomas was well on his way to recording his first career triple double with 24 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists when the Wizards seemingly ran out of gas.

DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay helped lead Sacramento’s late push. Cousins tallied 12 of his 24 points and Gay added 10 of his own 24 in the fourth quarter to bring the Wizards within sight. In fact, it was Gay’s running hook shot with 5.6 seconds remaining in regulation that sent the two teams into overtime.

In the extra period, Trevor Ariza and John Wall kept things close to start before Bradley Beals’ 24-footer put Washington up 109-107 with 1:40 remaining.

But, once again, Cousins and Gay outran the Wizards, combining for six points in less than a minute. Gortat added a layup to the Wizards’ efforts but it proved too little too late as Thomas’s four late free throws kept Sacramento on top through the remainder of the extra period.

The loss is a bit of an embarrassing one for Washington – not simply because the team appeared to let up long before the contest was over, but also because it brought the Wizards down to sixth in the East, just one percentage point behind the Brooklyn Nets (34-31).

Things will only get tougher as Washington will face the Portland Trail Blazers (44-24) Thursday night before taking on the sub-.500 Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets.

Washington Wizards Game 63 Recap: Wizards run out of gas in 99-90 loss to Heat

The Washington Wizards crept in front of the Miami Heat as late as midway through the fourth quarter, but Dwayne Wade proved too much to handle as Washington fell 99-90 at American Airlines Arena Monday night.

Bradley Beal posted 18 points for the Wizards, while Martell Webster and Drew Gooden added another 17 and 15, respectively. Marcin Gortat proved a rebound king, matching his career high of 18 on the night.

Wade and LeBron James set the tone early in the night, however. In fact, less than five minutes into the game, the duo recorded 13 of the Heat’s 16 points to outpace the Wizards’ early six. But, Washington recovered a bit, thanks in part to a jumper from Gooden and Otto Porter Jr.’s only basket of the night, which brought the Wizards within eight points at the end of the first quarter.

Washington matched Miami point-for-point in the second quarter to carry their eight-point deficit into the second half of the game.

Out of the locker rooms, the Wizards – namely, Gortat – looked fired up. In fact, 10 of Gortat’s 14 points came in the third quarter alone, and the majority of them happened within the first six minutes out of the break.

Trevor Ariza and Al Harrington each hit threes in the final 2:32 of the quarter to allow Gortat the tying shot.

But, whatever worked for Washington in the third quarter failed to carry over into the fourth. Gooden and Webster remained on a roll, but Wade’s 13 points in the final 12 minutes of play quickly pulled Miami back in front.

Trailing by just one point with 5:54 remaining, the Heat called a timeout; afterwards, they went on a 12-0 run to silence the Wizards’ offense.

Beal and Webster each hit late 26-footers to help Washington hit the 90-point mark, but the Heat held on to win it 99-90.

With the loss, the Wizards are now 33-30 and 17-15 on the road.

Washington Wizards Game 61 Recap: Ariza, reserves lead Wizards past Jazz

Trevor Ariza posted 26 points and five rebounds, and Bradley Beal added another 22 and five, respectively, to help the Washington Wizards to a 104-91 win over the Utah Jazz at the Verizon Center Wednesday night.

But, to add to their efforts, Wizards head coach Randy Wittman called upon what he referred to as the team’s “AARP group.” As such, by the end of the night, 37-year-old Andre Miller, 34-year-old Al Harrington and 32-year-old Drew Gooden played a combined 53 minutes, during which they posted a total 22 points and 11 assists.

“You can see it each day whether it is in practice or out here on the floor, they are getting their legs under them more and more each day,” Wittman said of Miller and Harrington. “I thought Dre [Andre Miller] came in and battled. Obviously, we know he is capable when he gets into shape to make that 18-foot jump shot that he made tonight. Al [Harrington] obviously stretches the floor for us, at that four spot that opens and creates driving lanes for John [Wall], Brad [Beal] and those guys. Dre just does his steady self. The numbers aren’t going to wow you, but he just controls that group out there.”

Fortunately for the Wizards, the reserve corps didn’t need to “wow.” Washington outscored the Jazz in all but the third quarter, and they maintained a comfortable lead for the greater portion of the night.

In fact, once Ariza hit his second of four three-pointers on the night, the Wizards were already off to a nine-point lead with 4:05 remaining in the first quarter.

In the second quarter, the reserves helped pad Washington’s lead.

Beal led off the quarter with a floating jump shot fed by Miller. Not two minutes later, Gooden made back-to-back baskets before Harrington laid one in to help Washington back to a 10-point lead, up 36-26 with 8:30 remaining in the half.

Gooden added two more baskets in the quarter before the momentum shifted back to Beal and Ariza. At halftime, Washington held onto a 54-44 lead.

“The usuals” dominated in the third quarter. Beal kicked things off for the Wizards with back-to-back threes and John Wall added a couple baskets to keep Washington afloat.

In the fourth quarter, however, the reserves showed they still had some fight. Miller drove for an early layup before Harrington hit a fadeaway jumper.

With 6:39 remaining, Harrington dazzled with a slam dunk that restored the Wizards’ double-digit lead and put a smile on Beal’s face.

“I started laughing a little bit,” Beal said. “[Harrington] was energized. I told him he should’ve dunked a couple in the first half and he said, ‘Alright I’ll make up for it.’ He gave us one in the second half and you just thought that it was the end of the game the way he dunked it. That’s a great momentum play for him, to actually see him be able to get up like that.”

The win marks the Wizards’ seventh in their past eight games, dating back to Feb. 19. Washington is now three games above .500 and 16-15 at home, but they will face Milwaukee and Miami on the road before returning home Mach 12.

John Wall Named Eastern Conference Player of the Week

The NBA announced Monday that Washington Wizards guard John Wall has been named Eastern Conference Player of the week for games played Monday, Feb. 24, through Sunday, March 2.

Wall averaged 25.0 points, 10.7 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game while shooting .592 from the field, .813 from the free throw line and .444 from three-point range. In that same week, the Wizards went 3-0, topping the Orlando Magic (115-106), Toronto Raptors (134-129 in triple overtime) and Philadelphia 76ers (122-103).

Wall was the only player in the NBA to average 25.0 points and 10.0 assists during the week while being tied for first among all NBA players in assists per game at 10.7. Wall recorded 27 points, seven assists and five rebounds in the Feb. 25 win against the Magic. He then tallied one of his seven 30+ point games on the season, with 31 points and nine assists in the long contest versus Toronto.

In the team’s final game of the week, the 2014 All-Star posted 17 points and a career high-tying 16 assists in the team’s win at Philadelphia. In that game, Wall became the second player in franchise history (Kevin Porter, 1980) to have at least 17 points and 16 assists in less than 30 minutes of play, and he became the first player in the NBA to do so since Damon Stoudamire in 2007.

Wall is the first Wizards player to win the award twice in the same season since Gilbert Arenas was a three-time Player of the Week award winner in 2006-07.

Wall is averaging 20.0 points, 9.7 assists and 4.2 rebounds on the season thus far.

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