Three thoughts about the Wizards’ 136-133 overtime win over Sacramento, the second-highest scoring game in the NBA this season and Washington’s highest-scoring game since a 144-139 overtime win at Phoenix on Dec. 22, 2006:
What is the anatomy of a near collapse? Find the tape of the fourth quarter – and for that matter, overtime – and just watch. Oh, and it was actually familiar.
Asked if he’d ever seen a game like that before, Andray Blatche answered: “Yeah, I have. Miami. We make it hard on ourselves. We make it harder than it has to be.”
Yet, the game seemed over on darn near every basket the Wizards scored in the second half of the fourth quarter even though the 16-point lead late in the third had already been trimmed down to single digits. Things were surely over when John Wall scored his tenth consecutive point, including six free throws in a row during a perfect 10 for 10 night at the line, making the score 123-117 with 31.9 seconds to play, a six-point margin Nick Young restored at 125-119 with 23.8 seconds to go.
Cue the madness.
After DeMarcus Cousins missed a pair of free throws, Young stepped out of bounds to give the ball back, and Jermaine Taylor cut the lead to four with a putback dunk. Then Rashard Lewis botched an inbound pass, which was stolen by Francisco Garcia, who finished and was inexplicably fouled by Al Thornton. That three-point play cut things to one point. After Young made one of two, Pooh Jeter blew by Wall into an empty lane – hello, JaVale McGee? Anyone? – for a game-tying layup, 126-126.
Ah yes, overtime, where of course it was Garcia again, but this time with three free throws after Cartier Martin – whether he made contact or not – lurched at him behind the arc despite the Wizards owning a 135-130 lead with only 28.7 seconds left.
Washington head coach Flip Saunders said he learned in the fifth grade not to foul jump shooters.
“You know what happens so much when you are trying to squeeze out a win, guys get so anxious, and sometimes you just have to slow down,” said Saunders. “I have always said that in our league when you look at great players, it always looks like they are playing in slow motion.”
All this for a team that shot 71 percent in the first quarter. Yes, the Wizards were both that good and that bad in the same game.
“I told our guys that the game was very similar at times to how we play on the road,” said Saunders, “that when things go bad, all of a sudden, our heads go down and we wait for somebody else to make a play instead of us making a play. The positive was we hung in there. We came late, and we made some plays late, so the consolation prize was that we won.”
“We’re happy with the win but disappointed in the way we finished the game,” said Wall. “We still gotta learn how to close out games and the game could’ve been over 30 minute to an hour ago.”
If the consolation prize was the victory, the grand prize went to Nick Young, who was relishing the spoils.
“I don’t want to leave here,” said Young. “This feels good right now. I’m going to frame this one. I’m going to frame everything tonight. I might get the tape, frame the shorts, the shoes I played in…I’m going to talk trash to teammates. I might give Gil [Arenas] a call, talk trash. There’s going to be a lot of talking trash going on.”
Young’s amazing stretch didn’t come out of nowhere, given how easily he’d racked up 14 points in the first quarter. But once the snowball got rolling, it picked up fast. By the time Young hit back to back three-pointers to stretch Washington’s lead from ten to 16, he’d already scored seven points in a row.
“The rim looked like a hula hoop once I started making them,” said Young. “I was in that zone.”
“He was unbelievable," said Kings head coach Paul Westphal. "When he gets it going there is no stopping him. There were periods of time there that the basket seemed like it was three times the normal size for him. I told him he needed to start working on his assists, but he didn’t listen to me. We inexplicably left him alone a few times especially in the third quarter. We already knew he was on fire, and that is the last guy you want to leave open when that happens.”
“He didn’t take too many bad shots, and that was a big key for him,” said Saunders. “You almost didn’t want to take him out because he was so hot. I have always had that philosophy that you never want to take a guy out that might have a chance to break Wilt Chamberlain’s record. You don’t want to be the one guy that stopped him. He played exceptionally well.”
The extent of the collateral damage suffered in the game remains to be seen. Apparently, Wall was just cramping. Blatche tried to put a positive spin on his right shoulder injury, suffered as he tied up with Taylor, who pulled Blatche to the ground as the two fought for a loose ball.
“I just grabbed the ball and wouldn’t let go,” said Blatche. “That was a key rebound for us so no matter what happened, I wasn’t going to let it go, and that’s when I came down on my shoulder and felt a pop, just couldn’t move it.”
But Blatche still stayed in to win the ensuing jump ball. He immediate clutched his shoulder after the play, and hopefully it didn’t make things worse.
“It was the worst pain I felt throughout the season so far, even dealing with my knee,” he said. “It was crazy.”
Yet, both Saunders and Blatche are saying he’s day-to-day. We’ll see.