By John Powell
At this point in the season, nobody should expect the Washington Wizards to finish a close game when they have a lead, but can they at least hold a double-digit lead for a few minutes?
The answer is “apparently not,” clearly evidenced by their play against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night.
On their way to beating the Kings by a score of 136-133 in overtime, the team looked a bit bipolar, much like they did against Miami a few weeks ago, giving up lead after lead en route to the win.
“From a purely entertainment standpoint, it was probably entertaining,” said Washington Head Coach Flip Saunders. “Frustration, entertaining, you name it.”
In the first quarter, Nick Young scored 14 points to back up John Wall’s 8-point, 5-assist first quarter performance. Even the other three starters, Rashard Lewis, Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee chipped in four rebounds each.
“We played well. We played hard. We were aggressive and we played well. We dominated,” Saunders said. “Our main guys played well together; our bench did not play as well.”
The team even held DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall’s Kentucky counterpart to a 0-of-4 field-goal mark and an 0-of-2 mark from the free throw line. His only contribution was one rebound.
“It was great to play against him,” Wall said, “but it was more about Sacramento versus the Washington Wizards.”
Based on those numbers, three players were on track to easily have a double-double on the night with Young having a career scoring performance. Washington had a 38-19 lead after only 12 minutes; surely it would grow.
But it seemed after every quarter something changed. The Wizards starters were held to eight second-quarter points on their way to being outscored in the quarter 16-37. Young turned it on and came back from a 3-point second quarter to score 18 in the third. The team outscored Sacramento 40-27 in the third quarter.
It was clear after the first quarter that, win or lose, it would be a night to remember for Nick Young. He ended up with a career night, scoring 43 points, blowing out his previous high of 33.
“When he got it going, some guys were looking for him,” Saunders said. “He didn’t take too many bad shots; that was a big key. He got tired a little bit, took a couple tired shots, but I didn’t want to take him out because he was so hot.”
But even Young fell into the bipolar path of his teammates with his 3-point second quarter.
“I just felt good,” Young said. “My teammates were finding me. I played with a lot of confidence … Second quarter? I don’t know. I just try to play hard. I was playing hard, then they fought back like we knew they were going to do.”
And finally, if fans finally thought they figured out the ending, they were still shocked. After the Wizards had an 11-point lead in the fourth, the Kings came back to tie it and go to overtime, 126-all. Washington pulled it our 136-133 in the end.
When asked if he had seen anything like the streaky play in the game, Andray Blatche said, “Yeah I have: Miami.”
“We make it hard on ourselves,” he continued. “We make it harder than it has to be.”
If thee game lasts long enough, everybody has an opportunity to succeed on paper. Blatche, Lewis and McGee all finished with double-doubles in points and rebounds. Wall was only one assist away from joining them. The only problem was that those four players also contributed 13 turnovers, killing momentum.
However, they overcame the issues and finished with a win, instead of a loss like they did on December 18, a 94-95 home loss to the Heat.
If anything, they played much like they have on the road all season, albeit with a different result. Now they will travel to Minnesota with this new experience and try to find their first win in 18 failed attempts on the road.