At long last, the Washington Wizards are in unfamiliar territory for all the right reasons.
The last time Washington saw the view from above .500, Bradley Beal was just 16 years old and the Wiz Kids were just three games into the season. This time, the Wizards are fifth in the Eastern Conference with a 24-23 record…in February.
And, to get to this point, they had to beat two of the West’s top teams in back-to-back games.
John Wall scored 22 points and Trevor Ariza added another 20 to help Washington to a 100-90 win over the 34-14 Portland Trail Blazers Monday night at the Verizon Center.
“It’s great – a humbling experience,” Wall said after the game. “You give credit to the young guys that have been here for a while for how hard they work and trying to get better. You give a ‘great job’ to our coaching staff and our organization, the people up top for doing the right thing and trying to make this team better. It also starts with being here as a family. We all trust each other. We all hold each other accountable on the basketball court, everything we do as a team.”
With Trevor Booker out for personal reasons, Kevin Seraphin made the most of his opportunity, tallying a season-high 19 points and five rebounds.
“[Seraphin] came in and gave us a big lift,” Wizards head coach Randy Wittman said after the game. “Not only offense… [Monday’s game might have been] his best alertness from a defensive standpoint that he’s had since he’s been here. That’s moving along in the right direction.”
The Wizards took an early – but slim – lead over one of the hottest offenses in the NBA. After entering the second quarter up 32-29, Portland slowly crept in front after LaMarcus Aldrige made back-to-back baskets to give the Trail Blazers a 46-43 lead with 4:46 remaining in the half.
Aldridge helped to pad the lead with two more jumpers to help the Trail Blazers to a 55-47 lead.
But, the Wizards answered with an 11-0 run, sparked by Wall’s two free throws. As such, the Wizards entered halftime with a 56-55 lead and never again let Portland in front. By the end of the third quarter, Washington carried a 13-point lead.
While the Wizards will have to beat the San Antonio Spurs Wednesday night to keep from falling back to .500, Monday night’s win marks the first time since the 2007-08 season that Washington has gone above .500 this late in the season.
“I don’t want them to focus on a number, I want them to focus on the act of why [they’re] 24-23,” Wittman said. “And, that’s where you keep it going. That’s where you get on a run. I want this team to get on a run. They’ve never been on a run where you run off games. That’s how you do it, each and every night the same way. We’re not changing. We’re playing one way. This way’s the way we’ve got to play. And that’s when you get to be able to really take off. That’s what I want.”