If the Washington Wizards are not able to squeak into the playoffs, they will have no one but themselves to blame with their roller coaster inconsistency. After playing a complete game in Atlanta, the Wizards reverted back to poor perimeter defense at home against the Hawks. In a game where defense was optional, Washington looked like it might be able to hang out up 8 with a bit more than two minutes to play. They blew that lead, missed a game-winning attempt in regular and repeated the same in the first overtime session. In the second they missed a potential game-tying shot and fell 132-129 at home to Minnesota. Their shots at making the playoffs become nearly non-existant now.
Number one overall pick Karl Anthony-Towns showed the DC area why he is the odds on favorite to win rookie of the year this season. The Kentucky product started the game by making his first four shots when matched up with Markieff Morris. In a suprise move in the bench rotation, recently signed guard Marcus Thornton entered the game before Garrett Temple fresh off of his 23 point performance. While changes were being made in the backcourt, Jared Dudley returned to his shooting form from earlier in the year by hitting three consecutive jumpers including two from beyond the arc. At the end of twelve minutes of play Washington led 29-27.
The Wizards announced the loss of Morris midway through the second quarter due to a left calf cramp injury. Minnesota’s second unit took control of the second quarter early on by scoring the Timberwolves first 17 points of the quarter. Then Bradley Beal and Zach LaVine began to heat up for their respective sides with 15 and 13 points in the quarter, respectively. The two combined for four straight 3-pointers, but Washington was in the hole by seven because of 13 Minnesota points of eight Wizards turnovers. Luckily, the home team was able to string together a few stops and finish the half on a 9-2 run with everything square at 62.
With Morris still unavailable, Randy Wittman reverted back to the 2014 lineup of Nene starting alongside Marcin Gortat in the second half. Midway through quarter Minnesota rattled off a quick 7-0 run that had Wittman in a fit on the sidelines. Washington quickly responded with a 14-4 run the featured back to back 3-pointers from Otto Porter and John Wall. Gortat chipped in with six points of his own as Washington went to the final quarter up 89-85.
Behind a couple of Ramon Sessions breakaway slams, the Wizards had their largest lead of the game at eight. Then Washington went on a nearly four minute scoring drought midway through the fourth session that allowed the Timberwolves to claw back within a bucket. Wall would score seven straight points on three consecutive shots to put the home team up seven with 2:21 to play. That is when the Wizards fell apart as Beal took an ill-advised shot with 20 seconds on the shot clock before Gorgui Dieng hit his fourth 3-pointer of the season. The game would go to overtime with both teams tied at 109.
Washington made a basket, Minnesota countered. The Timberwolves hit a shot, the Wizards countered. That was the gist of the overtime session for the first three minutes before Washington took over. Bradley Beal scored his first points since the first half on an out-of-bounds layup, John Wall picked off an inbounds pass, before Nene hit a big time baseline jumper with 27.3 seconds to play. Zach LaVine returned to first half form by hitting back-to-back 3-pointer that tied the game with 11.4 seconds to play. Beal had another good look at a game-winning shot from beyond the arc but it rimmed out so we would see double OT in DC.
Beal sandwiched a Karl Anthony-Town’s 3-pointer with two of his own to start the double overtime session before a Gortat putback had Washington up five. The Wizards offense became stagnant and gave up a 6-0 run to Minnesota putting them down one with 29.5 seconds to play. Gortat had a chance to put the home team back on top with 15 seconds to play but missed both free throw attempts. While Washington missed seven from the charity stripe (16 of 23), Minnesota made them all (22 of 22). Beal could not get a shot off over KAT at the end of the game leaving Dudley to airball a double clutched attempt at the end of the game. Washington lost 132-129.
Washington will embark on an important five-game West Coast swing starting Sunday night against the Los Angeles Lakers in Kobe Bryant’s last game against the Wizards in his career.