Martell Webster single-handedly put on a show for the 16,882 in attendance Saturday night as the Washington Wizards (23-42) dominated the Phoenix Suns (22-45) to record a 127-105 win at the Verizon Center.
To say Webster was on top of his game would be a gross understatement. By the end of the night, he was skipping around the court like a kid playing a pickup match with neighborhood friends.
Before completing a day’s work, he recorded a career-high 34 points, became the first Wizard to reach 30 points or more in a game this season and set a new career record with seven three-pointers – falling just one shy of tying the franchise record for a game.
“Martell had one of those nights where he could’ve thrown it off the roof and it would’ve gone in tonight,” Wizards head coach Randy Wittman said after the game. “Martell got 10 (three point attempts) tonight and a lot of them were because of our pace. It really is one of those unbelievable feelings. It’s one of those feelings where you going like, ‘Wow, what’s going on here?’ I have been in that position before, having that feeling, so I drew up every play I could for him because you want to take advantage of that feeling, but he’s been playing solid. He’s been really, really solid for us. All those technical free throws must have got him going I think.”
The Wizards surpassed their season high for points scored in a single game to record their first win against the Suns since December 2006.
Sure, Phoenix remains one of the few teams in the league to hover around Wizards’ territory in the loss column. Even with that in mind, however, Saturday night’s win was downright impressive for any team, let alone Washington.
To add icing to the cake, Bradley Beal made his return after missing six games with a sprained left ankle. In 21 minutes of playing time, he recorded 13 points, including three shots from behind the arc.
“We wanted to limit [Beal] to around 20 [minutes] just to see how he’ll react [Sunday],” Wittman said. “You always kind of do that in a situation where we haven’t had practice time – that’s been the main thing. Everything he’s done has been individually with the trainer or with the coaches; nothing with game situations just because we haven’t had any practice time. It’s different, so the first night I didn’t want to play him like normal and throw a bunch of minutes at him. Because if he’s got some soreness tomorrow then we have to think about sitting him another day.”
Despite how things turned out in the end, the Wizards looked sluggish at the start of the first quarter as they allowed the Suns to match them shot-for-shot for the first five and a half minutes. Believe it or not, Martell Webster went 0-for-3 when he first took the floor, but pulled through with a layup and a 24-footer to give Washington a 13-11 lead and to start his highlight-worthy stretch.
With 4:16 remaining in the quarter, the crowd came to its feet as Bradley Beal entered the game. After missing his first attempt, he drilled a three-pointer that put the Wizards up 25-21. The three wound up being his only field goal of the quarter and the Wizards entered the second down 29-27.
But, they more than made up for it in the second quarter, fueled by a resurgence from Webster who was virtually unstoppable against the Suns’ lackluster defense.
Just two and a half minutes in, Nene dished to Webster who cut to the rim and drew the and-1 to put Washington up 37-34.
Washington had trouble shaking off the Suns, who kept it anybody’s game through six minutes into the second quarter. They might have kept it closer had they not committed three of the four technical fouls in the haf – including Michael Beasley’s T for cursing… on Kids Night at the Verizon Center, no less.
With just under four minutes left in the quarter, Beal came up big with a defensive rebound that opened up Webster for a three-point shot. Webster missed and Okafor nabbed the rebound in time to pitch it back to Webster who attempted to slam it in, only to draw two free throws on Jermaine O’Neal’s goaltending to put Washington up 53-50.
Wall followed up with a driving layup and, after Goran Dragic laid one in, Nene delivered a fierce slam that sent him to the floor on his back and put Washington in front 57-52.
Beal came through with a three-pointer of his own with three minutes left to put Washington up 60-52 and added another two points two minutes later to give the Wizards 66 on the half, a new first-half record for the season.
At the half, Webster had already tallied 17 points, and both Nene and Okafor joined him in the double-digit club.
“My teammates kept finding me,” Webster said. “I definitely tip my hat to my teammates. They were encouraging me to keep shooting the ball. When you have that backing, it’s easy to shoot. You could put anybody in my position and they’d knock down those shots. Fortunately it was me tonight, but it was a great team win and it was fun to be out there playing with these guys.”
It became clear the Wizards weren’t about to hand over control of the ball anytime soon in the second half. Wall helped set a strong pace for the Wizards – even stole the ball off a Markieff Morris turnover to run it down the court for a dunk and put Washington up 77-65.
With nearly six minutes remaining in the quarter, Wall had already earned himself a double-double once he reached 10 of his 11 assists on the evening.
Webster’s three-pointer with just under two minutes remaining in the third quarter gave Washington a well-cushioned 97-76 lead. The Wizards crossed over the century mark before the fourth quarter even began, and from there, Webster had a field day.
After Webster drilled his seventh three-pointer of the evening in the fourth quarter, he took a page from Michael Jordon’s book, shrugging his shoulders as if in disbelief.
Phoenix never stood a chance as Webster – along with Beal and Kevin Seraphin – helped Washington close out the 127-105 win.