October 25, 2014

Washington Wizards Game Wrap 42: Okafor, Nene deliver in Wizards’ fifth straight win at home

The Washington Wizards (11-31) cruised to an 86-73 victory over the Chicago Bulls (26-17) at the Verizon Center Saturday night, marking the first time since January 2008 that Washington has celebrated five straight wins at home.

The game lacked the dazzling plays and late-quarter dramatics that many of the Wizards’ seven wins in the past 10 games featured. The crowd – which represented the Wizards’ third sellout this season – rose to its feet primarily for giveaways and Jumbotron opportunities until the game’s final minutes.

But, the Wizards did exactly what they needed to in order to beat the Bulls at home for the first time since Feb. 22, 2010.

They spread the ball and – more importantly – they shared the wealth. By the end of the night, three of the Wizards’ starters – Emeka Okafor, Nene and John Wall – tallied double-digit points. Okafor added 16 boards to round out his ninth double-double of the season. Even more, while Wall – along with Bradley Beal and Kevin Seraphin – struggled to sink mid-range jumpers, the Wizards scored 48 points in the paint – nearly 15 points higher than their average this season. [Read more...]

Washington Wizards Game Wrap 40: Loss to Utah Jazz Does Not Undermine Positives From Successful Road Trip

Writers Note: This is a series that will run throughout the season where both of DSP’s Washington Wizards writers will look back at a specific game, or series of games, and breakdown what it means for the Wizards. 

The Washington Wizards ended their five game West Coast road swing with a thud, falling to the Utah Jazz 92-88 to close out the trip with a 2-3 record. 

It looked bleak for the Wizards many times through the night, including heading into the fourth quarter, down 15 points. Of course, that was better than the 22 they were behind by at one point in the first half. 

Paul Milsap was the force for Utah with 16 points and 15 rebounds for a double double. Martell Webster provided most of Washington’s scoring with 15 points and was 3-of-4 shooting from behind the arc. An unsung hero in the loss for the Wizards is Emeka Okafor, who only had six points, but dominated the defensive boards with 12 rebounds under the Wizards’ basket and 17 total. 

Washington now returns to the Verizon Center on Friday to start a short three game home stretch against the Minnesota Timberwolves.  [Read more...]

Washington Wizards Game Wrap 35: Wizards Cruise to Third Straight Win with 120-91 Victory over Magic

The Washington Wizards (7-28) pulled the plug on the Orlando Magic (13-24) at the Verizon Center Monday night as Washington banked its most impressive victory of the season thus far – a 120-91 rout – to mark their third straight win.

At last, basketball has returned to the district.

Yes, John Wall was back in action for a second night in a row off the bench. More importantly, however, there was no single hero Monday night. The Wizards shared the wealth – and moved the ball – and as a result, six players for Washington tallied double-digit points. Emeka Okafor led the pack with 19 points and 11 rebounds, while A.J. Price and Kevin Seraphin tied with 18 points apiece.

The mere presence of John Wall seemed to help the Wizards get back on their feet again. Wall added 12 points and six assists to the mix during his second night back, but more importantly, he seemed to return confidence to a roster that seemed lifeless only weeks ago.

“[Wall] brings an added dimension that nobody had, that’s honesty,” said head coach Randy Wittman after the game. “His energy, his speed, his enthusiasm, his delivering of the ball…He sees the floor very well, not all guys see that.”

The Wizards’ defense was not quite picture-perfect,  but the Magic shot just 42.5% from the field. Even more, Washington drew key fouls and learned to play small ball to rack up points. In fact, they held off on attempting a three-pointer until less than 4:30 remained in the first half.

By the time Wall checked in – with 5:35 remaining in the first quarter – the Wizards were already off to a 16-11 lead, helped by eight consecutive free throws made by A.J. Price, Bradley Beal and Martell Webster collectively.

After Kevin Seraphin laid down the perfect block on Arron Afflalo, the Wall of old made his first appearance of the night with a fast break layup to widen Washington’s lead to 24-18.

The Magic’s Glen Davis responded with a layup of his own, but the Wizards carried a less-than-comfortable six-point lead into the second quarter.

Washington wasted little time heating up in the second quarter. By the time Price sank a 25-footer with 8:47 remaining, Washington had expanded their lead to 11 points.

Just under three minutes later, that lead grew to 16 points, thanks in part to an 8-0 run by unlikely hero Jan Vesely. Vesely capped off his stint with his second of several noteworthy dunks on the night.

With less than five minutes remaining in the half, Trevor Ariza sank a three, and Beal followed up with a jumper and layup to put Washington up 19 points.

Then, the Wizards returned to old habits.

In just two minutes and 14 seconds, they handed back 13 of 19 points to the Magic unanswered due to a missed alley-oop layup by Wall and two petty turnovers. Josh McRoberts added salt to the wounds by making the last basket a buzzer beater dunk to trim the Wizards’ lead to 59-53.

Unlike the Wizards of earlier this season, this team returned to the court ready to earn back the points they shed.

“I liked what I saw today in our guys’ eyes at halftime,” Wittman said. “It showed right away in the third quarter, we immediately built it up to 10, 12, 13 right away. It’s a good sign.”

The Wizards and Magic went back-and-forth throughout most of the third quarter, with Washington maintaining a 10-point lead throughout, give or take.

Leading 81-71, Vesely pitched the ball to Webster, who drew the three-and-one from the wing to put the Wizards out front by 15.

Before the end of the quarter, fans were treated to a pair of monster slams by Beal and Seraphin, and Washington regained a 19-point lead.

Then, in the fourth quarter, the Wizards did not only dominate, they put on a show.

To set the tone, Washington wowed the crowd with a John-to-Jan alley-oop to make it 98-77 with just under 10 minutes left to play.

With just under five minutes left, Trevor Ariza kicked off the dunk show before Seraphin dropped two hammers of his own to blow it open for Washington, 113-87. A.J. Price followed up with a three-pointer before the Wizards officially celebrated their first three-game win-streak of the season with a final score of 120-91.

Taking into account how the WIzards have performed throughout the majority of the season thus far, fans are left wondering if the win streak represents a change in momentum on the season or a fluke amidst a string of terrible losses, soon to again become the norm.

“We lost so many close games that I think once we started losing so many in a row, I think it kind of became a mental thing,” Price said. “When we got to the fourth quarter, for whatever reason, we just couldn’t execute because it was stuck in the back of our heads. I think now that the tide has turned a bit, we shouldn’t have to worry about that for the rest of the year.”

In order to prolong their win streak, the Wizards will have to carry their momentum away from home as they embark on a five-game road trip while the district prepares for the presidential Inauguration events taking place this weekend.

Washington Wizards Game Wrap 28: Wizards Start Strong, Fade Against Bulls

Searching for their first back-to-back wins in what seems like an eternity, the Washington Wizards could not climb out of a second and third quarter hole to overcome the Chicago Bulls in a 87-77 loss.

Washington started out strong in the first quarter as a whole. Despite opening the game sluggish, the team was able to pull itself together to take control. Heading into the second quarter, the Wizards held on to a slim 26-22 lead.

The red, white and blue took their six point lead and expanded it to eight in the opening moments of the second quarter. After taking their most commanding lead of the day though, it started to go all downhill and quickly for the Wizards. Chicago continually hit big shots and caused turnovers to limit Washingtons opportunities to get on the board.

As a team, the Wizards turned the ball over 16 times, compared to Chicago’s just eight giveaways. Garrett Temple, Friday night’s star who made his first start on Saturday, was the bigest culprit of the turnover issues, with four. Two other Wizards, Bradley Beal and Kevin Seraphin, both had three turnovers apiece.

A win was already going to be a tough for the Wizards, even before they lost their leading scorer before the game. Jordan Crawford did not dress because of right ankle soreness and it really showed in the team’s offensive production. For the game, the team only shot 36 percent from the floor and only knocked down three of their 10 three point attempts. Crawford joins a long list of injured players including, John Wall, Trevor Ariza, Chris Singleton and A.J. Price.

Nene started another game for Washington, but is clearly still on a minutes limit, only playing 25 total. It was not the typical Nene performance fans are used to though, with the Brazilian native only scoring ten points with nine rebounds and going minus-six on the evening.

Perhaps the best Wizard on the floor all night was Emeka Okafor, who knocked down 11 points with 18 rebounds, 12 of them on the defensive side of the court. He was key in the second half when the Wizards were trying to fight their way back during the third and fourth quarters. Repeatedly Okafor was waiting to snag a rebound after a bad Bulls shot and helped the Wizards keep it close.

Even without their best player, Derek Rose, the Bulls still victimized the Wizards with their other two, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. Boozer totalled 15 points and 12 rebounds, while Noah added nine of his own and 11 boards. The two of them combined with the hot shooting Kirk Hinrich for 34 of Chicago’s total points.

It is yet another road loss for the Wizards, who are now just 1-13 away from the Verizon Center. They return home on New Years Day to face another elite team in the Dallas Mavericks at the Verizon Center. Washington will be going for their second home winning streak of the year.

Washington Wizards Game Wrap 26: Turnovers burn Wizards in 87-84 loss to Cavaliers

The Washington Wizards’ (3-23) 20 turnovers proved costly as the last-place team fell yet again, this time to Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers (7-23) by the score of 87-84 Wednesday night.

The Cavaliers entered the Boxing Day match-up with more losses than the Wizards, but even Santa himself couldn’t wrap up a win for an ailing team forced to start its days-old point guard due to a Jordan Crawford rules violation.

Crawford delivered 17 points and three rebounds off the bench, but reports indicated he was seated for the start due to his late arrival to Wednesday’s shootaround.

Whether or not starting Shelvin Mack sent the appropriate message to Crawford, Mack arose to the occasion soon enough.

In the first quarter, he grabbed a defensive rebound, which set Martell Webster up for an easy dunk to make it 15-10 Wizards. After Washington expanded their lead to 10 points, Mack provided Emeka Okafor with a similar opportunity, opening him up for a dunk to make it 22-10.

Okafor tallied eight of his 17 points on the evening in the first quarter alone. He also managed 10 rebounds and four blocks before day’s end.

With less than five minutes left in the quarter, it looked like the Wizards would make the most of the Cavaliers’ ugly shot attempts and the referees’ reluctance to blow the whistle.

That is, until Irving had something to say about it.

After sinking a technical free throw and a long jumper, Irving set up Tyler Zeller for a huge dunk to trim the Wizards’ lead to just 22-17. Irving’s two free throws to end the quarter trimmed the lead to just four as the Wizards maintained a 26-22 lead at the buzzer.

Despite Washington’s decent start, turnovers continued to cost the Wizards’ countless opportunities to add padding to their lead. Back-to-back-to-back bad passes by Nene, Cartier Martin and Nene again in the second quarter helped spark the Cavaliers’ offense – which, more or less, relied upon Irving, who led with 26 points and eight assists on the night.

Nevertheless, the second piece of Washington’s Christmas signings – Garrett Temple – kept the Wizards within two as he dropped the hammer with just seconds left in the half to make it 45-43 Cavaliers.

Surprisingly enough, the Wizards started the third quarter on a 12-0 run, which included back-to-back three-pointers by Mack.

But, it didn’t take long for Washington’s 62-53 lead to dwindle.

If earlier turnovers failed to indicate that the lead would not hold, Webster’s goaltending turnover – against himself – seemed to leave fans shaking their heads muttering, “Only on the Wizards…” Through traffic, Crawford managed a stellar pass to a wide-open Webster, but Webster drove for the dunk by grabbing onto the rim with his left hand and attempting to sink the ball with his right.

Rather than wowing the crowd, the play resulted in a whistle and no additional points for the Wizards.

It also seemed to awake the Cavaliers’ offense, which made it a tie game – 68 apiece – at the close of the quarter.

The Wizards managed to hold onto a narrow lead for several minutes into the fourth. With 5:11 remaining, however, the Cavaliers’ Alonzo Gee made a huge dunk – two-handed, to be safe – and Zeller followed up with a layup to make it a tie game at 79-79.

Dion Waiters sunk a huge three-pointer to give Cleveland an 82-79 lead with 3:35 left to play, but Okafor’s two-point shot brought the Wizards within one. With under a minute left, Okafor made one of two free throws to tie it, but Tristan Thompson answered with a go-ahead jumper and-1.

With just seconds left, Irving made the first of two free throws due to Temple’s personal foul, but immediately after, Crawford drew a foul himself and sunk both of his free throws.

Down to seconds left to play, Irving made it 87-84 on one last free throw, and Crawford’s missed buzzer-beater attempt from three-point-land allowed the Wizards to tie Cleveland in the loss column with 23 apiece.

The loss also enabled the Cavaliers to do what the Wizards have yet to accomplish all season – win two games back-to-back.

Additionally, the game marked Shaun Livingston’s return to the Verizon Center – in a Cavaliers jersey – but he did not play.

Washington Wizards Game Wrap 1: Wiz fall to Cavaliers in season opener, 94-84

The Washington Wizards are going to have trouble scoring this season when everyone is healthy, let alone on nights like Tuesday, when they missed out on the services of John Wall, Nene and Kevin Seraphin. The result was an unfortunately predictable ten-point loss in Cleveland to the Cavaliers in both team’s season debut.

Cleveland benefitted from a game-high 29 points from 2011 rookie of the year Kyrie Irving, and all Wall could do was watch from the stands as he recovers from a knee injury that will delay his season debut until early December.

The Wizards started the fourth quarter down 12, but a 14-point run gave them life midway through the frame. But the Cavs bounced back to shake the Wizards and then ran away from them as time expired.

Rookie Bradley Beal scored eight points in his league debut on 2-of-8 shooting from the floor (2-of-4 from 3PT).

In fact, the Wizards team shooting overall was dismal at 36 percent, including Wall’s replacement, A.J. Price, who went 2-for-13. He managed seven points and six assists. Jamal Crawford scored 11 points from the bench on 4-for-13 shooting.

It’s going to be a common theme for these Wizards this season. They shipped out a bunch of talented knuckleheads for solid citizens and good defenders, but the offense has to come from somewhere.

With Nene’s injury history, it’s going to be tough for this team to fill his big shoes on nights he needs off, and Emeka Okefor has to do a better job than the 10 points and seven rebounds (team high) that he did tonight. Cleveland big man Anderson Varejao had nine points on the inside, but grabbed a whopping 23 rebounds, including 12 on the offensive boards which turned into second chance points for the Cavs last night.

“They (Cavaliers) dictated the tempo, which I thought was key,” head coach Randy Wittman said after. “We can’t get beat up on the boards like we did (54-39) or shoot free throws like we did (12-for-20) and have a realistic chance to win.”

The Wizards have their home opener Saturday with a visit by the Boston Celtics at 7:00 pm at Verizon Center.

Washington Wizards acquire forwards Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza

The Washington Wizards today announced the team acquired forwards Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza from the New Orleans Hornets in exchange for forward Rashard Lewis and the 46th overall pick in the upcoming 2012 NBA Draft.

From the press release:

Okafor (6-10, 255) holds career averages of 12.7 points, 10.1 rebounds and 1.8 blocks while shooting .517 from the field in 511 career games over eight seasons between Charlotte and New Orleans. The former second overall pick was named the NBA’s Rookie of the Year in 2005 and was one of three players (joining Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard) to average a double-double from 2004-05 to 2008-09. He has averaged at least 10 points, nine rebounds and 1.5 blocks in seven of his eight NBA seasons and has shot at least 53 percent from the field in the last six consecutive seasons. Okafor averaged 9.9 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.0 blocks while shooting .533 from the field in 27 games for the Hornets last season.

Ariza (6-8, 210) holds career averages of 9.0 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.7 steals in 499 games over eight seasons with New York, Orlando, L.A. Lakers, Houston and New Orleans. Over the last three seasons, he has averaged 12.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.7 steals while shooting .323 from three-point range with the Rockets and Hornets. Ariza helped lead the Lakers to the 2009 NBA Championship, contributing 11.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.3 steals while shooting .476 from beyond the arc in 23 games (all starts) during their title run. Last season, he averaged 10.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.7 steals while shooting .333 from three-point range in 41 games for the Hornets.

These two players will significantly strengthen the Wizards lineup, combining with Nene, Kevin Seraphin, Chris Singleton, Trevor Booker and Jan Vesely in the front court. The addition of two forwards this close to the draft would indicate the Wizards are leaning toward smooth-shooting Bradley Beal with the No. 3 overall pick in the draft. Beal, a 6’4″ shooting guard, would pair with point guard John wall to form a dynamic back court to go with the Wizards bolstered front court.

The arrival of Okefor could also signal the end of the road for Andray Blatche, out most of the year last year with conditioning issues. The Wizards could apply for amnesty on his contract and part ways with the talented but troubled big man.

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