Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wizards fight back, stun 76ers against in OT

Because of work, I was unable to watch one minute of the Wizards' 116-114 win over the Sixers last night. But on the way home, I did have the opportunity to listen to the radio during the fourth quarter and overtime, and I will say this: play-by-play man Dave Johnson and color analyst Glenn Consor were shocked at the Wizards' comeback and eventual victory.

From listening to Johnson and Consor and looking at the game's box score, the Wizards were terrible in the first half. They finished the half down 14 points, and from what I could tell by glancing at the box score, no Wiz player was really competing except for JaVale McGee, who already had a double-double midway through the second quarter. (More on McGee and his monster game below.)

After scoring just 38 points in the first half, though, the Wizards turned things around in a hurry, outscoring the Sixers by 10 points (35-25) in the third quarter and scratching and clawing in the fourth to send the game to overtime.

Let's go back to the fourth quarter. With about six minutes to go, Marreese Speights hit a jumper to give the Sixers a 98-85 lead. For nearly the next five minutes, though, the Sixers failed to score any points; meanwhile, the Wizards scored 10 and cut the lead to 98-95. Both teams traded a few buckets, and then Evan Turner hit two free throws with 27 seconds left, giving the Sixers a 104-99 advantage. John Wall then got fouled and hit two free throws, making the score 104-101. Then came arguably the biggest play in the game (at the time, at least): On the ensuing inbounds pass, Trevor Booker tied up Andres Nocioni and forced a jump ball, which he eventually tipped to Gilbert Arenas. The teams traded free throws, and the Wizards got the ball back with 11 seconds to go. Flip Saunders used a timeout to advance the ball and drew up a play, but Nick Young launched a three-pointer that either was an airball or barely touched the rim, giving the ball back to the Sixers. Luckily, though, the Wizards fouled Evan Turner on the inbounds pass, and he missed both free throws.

Still down by three with eight seconds to go, Wall hurriedly drove down the floor and then made an absolutely fantastic decision. With the Sixers looking to foul instead of giving the Wizards a chance to hit a three -- a strategy that simply has not worked in two games against Washington -- Wall pulled up from about halfway between mid-court and the three-point line and was able to draw an obvious foul by Jrue Holiday. Holiday was not expecting Wall to force a shot from that far away. Wall made all three free throws and sent the game to overtime, 106-106.

Overtime was just as exciting, or even more so, than the fourth quarter, but let's skip ahead to the final seconds. Down 114-113 after a Thaddeus Young tip-in, the Wizards drew up another play and hoped for some more late-game heroics. And they got it when Nick Young (on a pass from Arenas) hit a three-point jumper in the corner to put the Wiz up two, 116-114. I'd like to say that the Wizards ran some awesome play to get Young that wide-open three, but judging from the replay, all Young did was run down the baseline, and the Sixers simply lost track of him for a moment, which was just enough time for him to nail the shot. Andre Iguodala missed his shot to tie the game, which gave the Wizards another overtime win over the Sixers.

I apologize for the long game recap, but it really was an outstanding comeback and an exciting game (at least to listen to, for me). Wall was the story in the second half and overtime after a bad first half in his first game back from injury, but the player of the game for the Wizards has to be McGee, who had the best game of his career with 24 points (9-15 shooting), 18 rebounds, and four blocks. He also had two assists and two steals. Amazingly enough, McGee still would have had a double-double without the defensive rebounds (8) he grabbed because he had 10 offensive boards. And as I discussed yesterday, McGee has now grabbed 10 or more rebounds in four straight games. Phenomenal work, JaVale.

Back to Wall: He led the Wizards with 25 points and was 7-15 from the field -- not great, but much better than he started off the game. He also had six assists, three rebounds, and just one turnover in 36 minutes.

Playing 32 minutes off the bench (partly because of an Al Thornton injury), Young scored 19 points and was also 7-15 from the field. He even grabbed three rebounds and made four three-pointers. As for the starters (other than McGee; Wall came off the bench), Arenas had 17 points and seven assists; Andray Blatche scored 17 points and snagged 12 rebounds; Kirk Hinrich chipped in seven points and six assists; and Thornton had no points and a rebound in eight minutes before departing. Neither Arenas nor Blatche shot well, though; they were a combined 14-37 from the field (ouch).

Overall, the Wizards won a game in which they were outshot (46.2% to 43.9%), outrebounded (48-45), and out-assisted (29-25). But they made four more three-pointers and shot better from the free throw line (76.9% to 71.0%), which certainly ended up mattering.

The Wizards improved to 5-8 on the season with the win, and they travel to Atlanta to face the Hawks on Thursday (on TNT). Also, in just 13 games, the Wizards have already played three overtime games.

Note: According to, since 1986-1987 only eight other players (other than McGee) have had games with at least 24 points, 10 offensive rebounds, a field-goal percentage of 60 percent (or higher), and four blocks. Those players, in descending order sorted by points, are Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Shaquille O'Neal (three times), Patrick Ewing, Elton Brand, Billy Thompson, Dikembe Mutombo, and LaMarcus Aldridge.

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