Hold your breath – the Washington Wizards are a .500 basketball team once again.
And, to get there, all they had to do was slow the hottest team in the NBA.
John Wall tallied 17 points, 15 assists and matched his career-high six steals as the Washington Wizards’ topped the Oklahoma City Thunder 96-81 on Saturday night at the Verizon Center. But, his first half performance was anything but all-star caliber.
Through the first 24 minutes of play, Wall missed all of his field goal attempts, including an easy lay-up just before halftime.
Then, per head coach Randy Wittman’s request, Wall changed his shoes.
After trading in his red Adidas for a white pair, Wall went on to shoot 7 of 11 with a highlight-worthy one-handed dunk over Washington native Kevin Durant.
With 4:09 remaining in the third quarter, the Wizards held on to a 58-57 lead before going on a 20-7 run. By the time Wall wowed the crowd with his monster dunk, the Wizards had jumped in front of the Thunder 89-72.
“Got to have amnesia in this league if you’re going to be good,” Wittman said after the game. “If you’re going to be good you can’t let bad plays, bad shooting, bad three quarters bother you… It could be easy to sit there and say, misses a layup at halftime I told him, either change your shoes, change your uniform, or do something. Something is not right.”
Marcin Gortat backed Wall with 14 points and 14 rebounds, and Trevor Ariza and Nene added 18 and 17 points, respectively. Even more, the Wizards took advantage of key opportunities, converting the Thunder’s 21 turnovers into 23 points.
“Everybody was involved with the game and when everybody touches the ball, even if they don’t shoot it, you feel involved,” Ariza said. “We definitely got everybody involved in the game tonight.”
Ariza did an excellent job of covering Durant who, despite tallying 26 points, missed 13 of his 21 field goal attempts.
“You definitely can’t stop [the Thunder],” Durant said. “What you can do is try to make them work for everything you get and make them take a lot of shots. That’s what I tried to do tonight—try to put pressure on them, try to make them take tough shots and luckily [Durant] missed some.”
With the win, the Wizards snapped the Thunder’s 10-game winning streak to go to .500 for the seventh time this season. A win over the Portland Trail Blazers Monday night would give Washington a winning record for the first time since October 2009.