The Washington Wizards (4-27) showed reslience and determination Friday night against the Brooklyn Nets (18-15), but they lacked the endurance to power through an additional 10 minutes of play as they fell 115-113 in an intense double-overtime matchup.
Heartache is no stranger to Washington. Prior to Friday night’s battle, the Wizards fell by one possession in five of this season’s matchups – including a double overtime loss to the Charlotte Bobcats on Nov. 24 and an overtime loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Nov. 21.
And yet, this one topped them all.
“How many times have we been here?” Wizards head coach Randy Wittman exclaimed after the game. “I’ve lost count.”
Whether it was Andray Blatche’s return to the Verizon Center, Bradley Beal’s monster slam in the fourth quarter, Nene’s heroics to send the game into the first overtime or Beal’s buzzer-beater three-pointer to send the game into double overtime, the crowd was riled up as everyone seemed to believe the Wizards had this one in the bag.
Sure, the inexplicable chants of “RGIII” erupted. After several of the Wizards voiced their Super Bowl picks via a video message on the jumbotron between quarters, the crowd of 16,006 erupted into “Hail to the Redskins” even after the players returned to the court.
But, by the end of the night, something happened at the Phone Booth that has not happened much in the past few months. Fans were on their feet, high-fiving one another and booing the visiting team rather than their own guys who are riding a four-game losing streak yet again. The chants of “Let’s go Wizards!” and “De-fense!” reached a volume far beyond the celebratory cheers when MarShon Brooks’ missed free throws awarded fans with free Chic-fil-a.
For the first time in too many Fridays to count, magic was in the air at the Verizon Center and the Wizards seemed on pace to give fans a reason to go home smiling.
To start, Nene hit the ground running by notching eight of the Wizards’ first 15 points of the game to give Washington an early lead against the Nets. By the end of the quarter, the Wizards had a 10-point lead and tallied 30 points in the first 12 minutes – tying their season-high for the quarter, set against the Miami Heat on Dec. 4.
Although he did not attempt a shot in the entire first quarter, Jordan Crawford went 5-for-6 shooting and posted 13 points towards the Wizards’ 55-53 lead at the half.
Despite having led by as many as 14 points in the first half, the Wizards made it evident by the end of the third quarter that they would remain neck-and-neck with the Nets for the remainder of the game.
Before Wizards fans could cry “Same old, same old,” Bradley Beal brought the crowd to its loudest volume yet with a monster slam over Brooks with 6:15 remaining.
With just over a minute left in regulation, Crawford’s jumper tied the game at 91 apiece before Brook Lopez – who posted 27 points and 13 assists by the end of the night – found the net in time to put Brooklyn up 93-91 with only three seconds left.
Then, the Wizards looked to Nene.
With help from Garrett Temple, Nene weaved through traffic and sunk a nine-footer to send the game into overtime and to ignite roars from the crowd.
Everything seemed set in stone for the Wizards once Martell Webster sunk two free throws to give Washington an eight-point lead with less than 1:30 remaining in overtime.
That is, until Keith Bogans sunk a three-pointer, Gerald Wallace responded with two free throws of his own and Deron Williams made a driving layup to put the Nets right back in the Wizards’ rearview mirror, trailing 101-100.
Lopez then drew a foul off Nene and sunk both of his free throws, and Emeka Okafor fouled on Williams with just three seconds on the clock, allowing the Nets to take a 104-101 lead.
Fans began packing their things – some even headed to the concourse – when Wittman decided to call upon Beal for the long-shot.
Crawford passed to Beal who had barely enough time to get the ball out of his hands, yet his 27-footer found the net in time to send the game into the second overtime.
“Bradley kept us alive when we should’ve been dead and we should’ve never been dead to begin with,” Wittman said. “The thing that’s disturbing is that we do the same mistake over and over again as you’re closing the game out. When a guy’s doubled, you have to move the ball.”
Aside from Webster’s two points to start the second overtime, the Wizards trailed throughout the period, thanks to Wallace’s layup and Bogans’s jumper. While the Wizards managed game-changing stops and seemed to avoid getting jammed by the Nets’ defense throughout most of the game, they simply ran out of gas – or magic – in the final overtime as they finally fell 115-113.
With the loss, the Wizards are now 0-5 in overtime games and just 3-13 overall at the Verizon Center. They will once again have their work cut out for them as they take on the Heat in Miami Sunday night at 6:00 p.m. ET.