A day after Head Coach Randy Wittman and the players held a team meeting to discuss Washington's disastrous and embarrassing 0-12 start to the NBA season, the Wizards finally got their first win of the season, beating the visiting Portland Trail Blazers [6-8] 84-82 in front of a half empty Verizon Center. Washington is the last NBA team to win a game this year.
It looked like the Wizards might get their first win of the season easily, as they kept pace with the Blazers early before taking control of the game in the third and early in the fourth quarter. The game was tied at halftime and Washington struggled early in the third quarter before coming on and outscoring the Blazers 25-16 in the third, helped by Jordan Crawford's shooting. However, that's when the wheels fell off. Washington led 79-64 with nine minutes left in the fourth quarter before giving up the next 16 points to turn a likely win into dogfight. The Wizards went about six minutes without scoring a point and Portland had an 80-79 lead.
Wizards took an 84-82 lead on two foul shots by Emeka Okafor after he was fouled under the bucket. The Trail Blazers couldn't get off a good shot on their next possession, a key defensive stop by the Wizards. With the ball and 29 seconds to go and a two point lead, the Wizards looked to put the game away. Jordan Crawford held the ball until there was about 12 seconds on the clock, when he started to drive toward the bucket. The defense slid toward him and he dished to a cutting Nene. Although replays clearly showed Nicholas Batum was moving, the officials called a charge foul on Nene and the ball was turned over to the Trail Blazers with nine seconds to go.
Rookie guard Damian Lillard drove to the basket, but was forced to pass near the bucket. The pass went wild and was recovered by J.J. Hickson, who took a 5-foot turnaround jumper that bounced off the rim. Chris Singleton grabbed the rebound and immediately called a time out. The Wizards had the ball and a two point lead with 0.5 seconds left on the clock.
Washington tried to in bound the ball from Portland's side of the court, but the pass was intercepted by Wesley Matthews, who called a timeout. After caucusing, the refs decided the Trail Blazers had 0.2 seconds left on the clock. Portland chucked a lob pass at the basket that bounced off the rim and harmlessly away. Washington finally had its first win of the season.
The key was Washington's defense and the play of its bench, which outscored the Portland bench 46-4. The Wizards defense held the Blazers to 35% shooting and 32% on 3-pointers. Rookie Damian Lillard scored 20 points, but needed 21 shots -- and missed 15 of them -- to get his points. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 17 points, but needed 19 shots to do it. It was center JJ Hickson, who scored 15 points on 6-8 shooting and grabbed 19 rebounds, who did the most damage. He also hurt his own team, though, with 5 turnovers. Washington's defense worked hard and held the Blazers to only 1 fast break point on the night, compared to 10 for the Wiz. "Our defense saved the day for us," said Randy Wittman after the game.
Washington's bench hit 15 of 29 shots from the field, led by backup guard Jordan Crawford, who scored a team-high 19 points. Nene added 6 points and 6 rebounds in 19 minutes off the bench. Of the starters, only Trevor Ariza [6-9 shooting, 5 rebounds] and Kevin Seraphin [5-13 shooting, 10 rebounds] scored in double figures, with 14 and 10 points, respectively. As usual, AJ Price shot horribly, missing 6 of 7 shots, and rookie Bradley Beal made his normal miniscule contribution, with five points on 6 shots and two turnovers. He did not record an assist, steal or rebound. I thought Beal worked hard on defense and did some good work on that end, but a starting shooting guard needs to score a lot more than five points.
Despite the starting five again getting badly outplayed by the opposition, the Wizards won their first game of the season and the 13th game of the season was the charm. "We broke through the ice," said Wittman.
Washington plays its next game Friday in New York.
(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)