April 23, 2014

Bradley Beal’s Late-Game Heroics Lift Washington Wizards To 2-0 Series Lead Over Chicago Bulls

After game one of the series saw the front-court duo of Nene and Marcin Gortat lead the Washington Wizards to victory, the back-court tandem of Bradley Beal and John Wall led the way to a dramatic 101-99 win in overtime to give Washington a 2-0 series lead over the Chicago Bulls.

Last Sunday, Beal and Wall combined for just 29 points. On Tuesday night, the young guards totaled 44 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. With Gortat and Nene struggling, it was clear the guards were going to have to win this game. For Beal, he took the game into his own hands late and shined.

Washington came out fast and made their first three shots to jump out to a 7-0 lead to start the game. At one point, the Wizards lead by 17, but took an 11 point lead into the second quarter. It was as good a quarter as we have seen all season and they had taken the crowd out of the game.

At the four-minute mark in the second quarter, Beal and Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich locked horns in an emotional moment that warranted double technicals. From that point forward, the game became much more physical. The once quiet hometown crowd came alive and the fight was on.

Along with a new-found intensity, Chicago also discovered quite the trio in D.J. Augustin, Taj Gibson and Hinrich. For the game, Augustin led with 25 points, but the trio poured in 59 points. In the second quarter, the Wizards didn’t have an answer for them defensively. With those three on the floor, the Bulls closed the lead to seven at halftime.

Throughout the regular season, the Wizards had a difficult time coming out of the locker room strong for the second half. On Tuesday night, they once again fell victim to that bad habit. Chicago outscored Washington 26-14 in the third quarter to take a five point lead into the final period.

Washington was then able to match Chicago’s intensity in a fourth quarter battle for the ages. With Nene, Wall and Beal all in foul trouble, everything seemed to be going the way of the Bulls. However, it was the Wizards’ youngest star that took the game over.

20-year old Bradley Beal dropped 11 fourth-quarter points to tie the game and force overtime. He showcased his wide array of skills by making two threes, but also finishing at the rim. While he did spoil a chance to take the lead in the final minute, it was his effort that gave Washington new life.

Washington jumped out to a 97-91 lead to begin the extra period thanks to six points from Nene. Trevor Booker and Wall then combined to go 4-for-4 from the free throw line to put the game just out of reach.

With two seconds remaining, Kirk Hinrich drove to the basket, guarded by Nene. Hinrich attempted a layup, but a foul was called on Nene, his sixth. The veteran Bulls’ guard then missed both free throws and Washington was able to secure the game winning rebound.

The Wizards now take a 2-0 lead in the series and head back to D.C. and hometown crowd at the Verizon Center. While it’s difficult for a team to comeback from being down 2-0, the past two games have been too closely contested to assume the Wizards can wrap it up at home.

The series now heads back to D.C. with the Wizards in control two games to none. Game three tips off in the Verizon Center on Friday night at 8 PM EST.

Washington Wizards Game 2 Recap: Wiz Narrowly Edge Bulls to Take 2-0 Series Lead

After charging out of the gates in Game 1, the Washington Wizards clawed back from a sloppy second half to top the Chicago Bulls 101-99 Tuesday night in an overtime contest littered with sloppy mistakes, questionable foul calls and missed free baskets.

But, just as it appeared Game 2 had all but slipped from the Wizards’ grasp, Nene once again emerged from the dust, this time to help undo the damage of the third and fourth quarters.

Early in the night, it appeared the Wizards were on pace to shut down the Bulls from start to finish. On the backs of Bradley Beal and John Wall, Washington leaped to a swift 17-point lead before the close of the first quarter. By evening’s end, Beal recorded 26 points and Wall added another 16 to Washington’s efforts.

But the earliest signs of a moment change surfaced in the final 1:41 of the first, when D.J. Augustin began to pester Washington, posting a quick eight points to pull Chicago within 11.

The Bulls outscored the Wizards in the second quarter, 29-25. Along with Joakim Noah, Augustin continued to hurt Washington. Perhaps more importantly, the Bulls accomplished something the Wizards struggled with throughout the night — they made their free throws.

Washington fell asleep in the third quarter, posting just 14 points to compete with the Bulls’ 26. Worse yet, the Wizards quickly found themselves in foul trouble with their backs against the wall.

Yet, somehow, Nene fueled Washington’s resurgence in the five extra minutes of basketball. He opened overtime with a two-point shot before slamming one in to put the Wizards up 95-91 with 3:24 remaining.

At long last, the Wizards sank their free throws to remain in front. As irony would have it, with Kirk Hinrich at the line, the Bulls found themselves a pair of missed free throws away from catching Washington. Instead, the Wizards held on to win it, marking the first time since 1982 that Washington has led a playoff series 2-0.

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 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.

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.

Washington Wizards Game 58 Recap: Wizards win fifth straight with triple-OT victory over Raptors

Few would have anticipated Thursday night’s matchup between the Washington Wizards and Toronto Raptors would equate to a battle of endurance. But, a whopping 3:32 after tipoff, the Wizards emerged the victor, topping the Raptors 134-129 in a triple-overtime contest that featured 19 ties and 15 lead changes.

Both John Wall and Marcin Gortat came up big with 31 points apiece, and Gortat added 12 rebounds and four blocks on the night. In a demonstration of stamina, Gortat, Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza each played 50 or more minutes of basketball before days’ end.

And, when all was said and done, the Wizards had outscored the Raptors 80-46 in the paint, 21-6 on second-chance points and 26-16 on the fast break.

But, fans at the Air Canada Centre nearly missed out on 15 minutes of bonus basketball.

After trailing for the greater portion of the first half of regulation, the Wizards caught the Raptors and kept things close throughout the third and fourth quarters.

With five seconds left in regulation, Gortat drove inside to knock in a missed jumper by Beal to tie the game at 106. Toronto’s Kyle Lowry tried to come up with a tough floater to wrap things up, but the ball rolled off the rim to send the game into overtime.

The Raptors took a four-point lead with 2:14 remaining in overtime before Wall came up with a layup-and-1 to bring the Wizards back within a point. With 48 seconds remaining, Wall made one of two free throws before driving inside with a game-tying layup.

In the final moments before the buzzer, Wall delivered a game-saving block on Lowry to tack on five more minutes of play.

But, of course, the drama didn’t stop there.

The second overtime proved to be Gortat versus DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan opened the extra period with a turnaround jumper before Gortat responded with a dunk fed by Martell Webster. Gortat than drew a foul off Jonas Valanciunas with 43 seconds remaining and sank both of his free baskets to put Washington up 118-116.

With just two seconds remaining, however, DeRozan erased the two free baskets with a layup to tie the game.

It then appeared as though Beal would emerge the Wizards’ hero as he drove across the court for the layup, but it was ruled the buzzer had sounded just before the ball left his hands.

At last, the Wizards were able to outlast the Raptors in the third overtime. Gortat and Beal came up big with two points in the first two minutes to keep up with DeRozan’s hot shooting.

Webster hit a layup before Gortat added another three-point play to tie things up at 127 points apiece. Ariza and Webster then hit the go-ahead shots too late for the Raptors to play catch-up.

With the win, the Wizards are now, at last, two games above .500 and 15-14 on the road.

Washington Wizards Game 56 Recap: Wall’s 21 points help Wizards top Cavaliers

When John Wall and Kyrie Irving go head-to-head, even a contest between two teams struggling to stay in playoff talks can be billed as a marquee matchup.

On Sunday night, however, Wall’s performance topped Irving’s as the Wizards’ point guard posted 21 points, nine assists and three rebounds to help Washington a 96-83 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena.

Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza added 17 and 15 points, respectively, and the Wizards maintained control of the game since going on a 12-0 run halfway through the first quarter. The Cavaliers gained enough momentum to trim the Wizards’ lead to just three points by the end of the quarter, but Washington stayed a step ahead for the duration of the game.

And, it wasn’t without pomp and circumstance. [Read more...]

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