The Washington Wizards lost their starting center and starting power forward to plantar fascitis, shot only six free throws the entire game, three of the five starters did not score in double figures, Jordan Crawford had his 7-game streak of scoring at least 20 points snapped and the leading scorer was a guy just signed to a 10-day contract. Nevertheless, 47 points off the bench, good 3-point shooting for the first time in a long time, domination of the defensive glass and stifling defense allowed the Wizards to break a five game losing streak and crush the Philadelphia 76ers 97-76. It was Washington's first win over Philadelphia [28-23] this season, with the three previous losses all coming by double digit margins.
The Wizards played inspired, professional basketball almost from start to finish tonight, taking a 21-point lead in the second quarter and instead of squandering it as they have so many times in the past two weeks, they held on to it. The Wizards did not blow this double digit lead in the second half, as they had their last three home games. They kept playing tough defense, they kept running the floor, they kept hitting the boards, they kept running the offense and, this time, Cartier Martin was around to nail a 3-pointer every time the Sixers even thought about going on a run. In only his second game since being added to the roster from the NBADL, Martin led all scorers with 20 points, hitting 4 of 7 on 3-pointers and 8 of 12 overall from the field. He also grabbed six rebounds and posted a gaudy +20 in court ratio in 26 minutes of play.
The play of Martin, as well as Kevin Seraphin [14 points, 7 rebounds, 7-11 shooting], Crawford [17 points, 4 rebounds, 3 dimes], John Wall [9 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks and stifling defense on Jrue Holiday all night] and Jan Vesely [6 points, game-high 11 rebounds] enabled the Wizards to overcome injuries to two starters -- Trevor Booker and Nene -- who both left the game with planta fascistis in the left foot. Booker left halfway through the first quarter and never played again last night. Nene went jogging to the locker room in the fourth quarter with the same injury, but not before he scored 16 points on 7-11 shooting, grabbed 8 rebounds, dished 4 assists and completely out-played Philly big man Spencer Hawes. The Wizards did not appear to believe that Booker or Nene were seriously injured.
The win over Philly is the seventh straight game the Wizards have held their opponent under 100 points and, although the team lost five games before tonight, there have been noticeable improvements in overall performance. For example, since the trade that brought Nene to Washington and sent Nick Young and Javale McGee out of town, the Wizards have the second best defense in the NBA when Nene is on the court. The offense ranks 22nd overall, certainly nothing special, but the defense is strong enough that Washington's point differential would rank them as the fifth best team in the NBA. Now, this is a relatively small sample size, of course, and I'm not trying to make any sweeping claims about how good the Wizards are or will be in the future. Merely that adding Nene and subtracting McGee, Young and Andray Blatche has been a big positive for the performance of the team.
WIZARDS PLAYER OF THE GAME
Cartier Martin: 20 points, 8-12 shooting, 4-7 on 3-pointers, 6 rebounds, +20 in 26 minutes off the bench