The Washington Wizards had not beaten the Los Angeles Lakers since 2006, a losing streak of nine games. Both teams had every reason to think the streak would soon go to double figures, as the Lakers led by 21 points in the third quarter. The Wizards "home" crowd spent much of the first half cheering for the visitors, including loud chants of "M-V-P" for superstar guard Kobe Bryant and the Wiz have a well-known penchant for folding like lawn chairs when a team with a bit of swagger comes into their building.
But for reasons still unexplained by science or religion, the Wizards pulled themselves off the floor and came roaring back, finishing the third quarter with a 26-7 run to narrow their deficit to two points. The Wizards outscored the Lakers 32-19 in the third quarter and 57-37 in the second half, allowing Los Angeles to hit only 10 shots from the field. Bryant, who scored 20 points in the first half, got only 10 in the second half and took 31 shots to get his 30 points. The final score, 106-101, came as a shock to both teams, the fans in the arena, anyone watching on television and, I suspect, all those who just saw the score scroll across the bottom of their television screens.
It came about despite most of the Wizards starters, who contributed little, apart from power forward Trevor Booker, the only starter who remained on the floor for most of the fourth quarter. John Wall had nine assists, but scored only four points. Jordan Crawford scored 14 points, but took 19 shots to do it. Chris Singleton played some nice defense, as you would expect, but scored only 3 points in 20 minutes. Contributions came from center Javale McGee, who scored 12 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in 23 minutes, but his penchant for playing no defense -- on ample display again last night as Andrew Bynum scored almost every time he touched the ball -- and making boneheaded plays had McGee consigned to the bench in the fourth quarter, too. It was Trevor Booker, however, the least-heralded of the starters, perhaps, who once again demonstrated he's a quality NBA player. Booker scored 18 points on 9 shots and grabbed 17 rebounds, including 8 off the offensive glass.
The Wizards offense really got moving in the second half when starter John Wall sat down in favor of rookie backup Shelvin Mack, who started stealing and dishing and got his teammates involved, particularly Roger Mason, Jr. Mason has been an after-thought most of the season, racking up plenty of DNPs or nights when he gets only 2-5 minutes on the court. He got only 12 minutes last night against the Lakers, but he made the most of it, pouring in 14 points on 5-8 shooting, including 4-7 on 3-pointers. His +16 court ratio was tops on either team. Another bench player, Nick Young, contributed in some unexpected ways. Young scored 19 points, but needed 19 shots to do it. Instead, it was, of all things, his passing and defense, that helped the Wizards win. Young had no assists since the All Star break coming into the game and only 38 dimes in 36 games this season. In other words, he's a black hole. He hates passing. Against the Lakers, though, he not only passed, he passed well, dishing 6 assists and setting up teammates like Booker and Kevin Seraphin for some nice scores around the basket. Young may have embarrassingly missed a breakaway dunk, but he crawled all over Kobe Bryant, helping to hold the mega-star to 1-10 shooting in the second half.
We must not forget Kevin Seraphin, who played 25 minutes last night and rewarded the Wizards with a career-high 14 points and 9 rebounds on 7-8 shooting. Amazingly, Seraphin, who is a foul and turnover machine, lost the ball only once and committed only two fouls. His monstrous duck off a missed layup by Shelvin Mack was, perhaps, the highlight of the night. Andray Blatche came off the bench to grab 2 rebounds and score four points in 10 minutes, but his -11 court ratio demonstrated yet again that the team tends to not play well when he is on the court.
For the game, the Wizards outshot the Lakers [46.7% to 39.5% from the field], out-rebounded the Lakers [51-42, 17-9 offensive], and out-assisted [24-21] the Lakers. What kept Los Angeles in the game in the second half was foul shooting. Forget home court advantage, the refs don't care about that when the Wizards are hosting the Lakers. Los Angeles took 37 foul shots to only 19 for Washington and the Lakers' 16-point advantage from the charity stripe is what allowed them to keep the game close in the second half.
Ind the end, though, generous treatment from the refs wasn't enough to save the Lakers last night, as Washington got its most dramatic and impressive win of the season. It's only Washington's 9th win against 29 losses, but this one, at least, is one to savor.