Jacob Raim - WashingtonWizards.com
gave us some magic with his buzzer beater to put us in the win column for the fifth time in seven nights, along with a season sweep of Portland. Here are 10 thoughts on the game:
1. Crawford's Clutch Play In his first two games back from injury, Crawford really didn't have much of an impact on either game. Last night through three quarters Crawford had had no impact on the game. I was thinking to myself before the start of the fourth quarter, this would be a great time for Crawford to put his stamp on the game, and he did just that. Even before the brilliant game winner he was on fire, and he ended with 13 points in the quarter on 5/7 shooting. His shooting touch looked to be back and hopefully he'll build on this and regain his role as the go-to scorer off the bench.
2. First Quarter Scoring Earlier this season it seemed as though every single game it took the Wizards about six minutes to get into it and they would find themselves chasing their opponents the whole way. This has not been the case of late and it also can't even be directly attributed to Wall since he hasn't been starting. On the West coast trip, the Wizards haven't trailed by more than two after the first quarter and have put up 30 twice. Last night was no different as they scored 34 points in the first quarter (but gave up 31) on over 60 percent shooting. The quarter-to-quarter consistency has to improve though as after the first quarter outburst, they only scored 35 points combined in the second and third quarters. The defense also improved drastically as well, as they held Portland to just 33 in those same quarters.
It sure must be nice for Randy Wittman to actually have a full roster to choose from. With Booker, Crawford and Wall all in the lineup and Nene looking healthier than he has all year, the only hurt Wizard is
. The rotation is starting to look like we expected it would, with the notable exception of Wall not yet playing the major minutes that he will soon. The big man rotation especially is looking like we hoped it would with Okafor and Nene both being very effective and playing major minutes, and Booker, Seraphin and on some nights Vesely, providing solid minutes off the bench.
4. Nene's First Quarter Nene opened the game up in ridiculously good fashion, going 8/9 from the field for 17 points. Everything was working for him, from his mid-range game to a couple of awesome spin moves. Nene was not as effective the rest of the way, finishing with 24 points on 10/17 shooting, but his first-quarter heroics made the victory possible. We still have not seen the consistent big scoring nights that Nene used to give to Denver but it is nights like this that show it is very much still there. As he continues to get healthier hopefully nights like this will be more frequent.
5. Double-Double Machine Over the first five seasons of Okafor's career in Charlotte, he averaged a double-double every year and was close to a double-double the next two years in New Orleans. The Wizards are starting to see that Okafor on a night in, night out basis. In January he's averaged 10.2 points and 9.9 boards per game and has double-doubles in 5/10 games in the month. Last night was no exception as he went for a solid 13 points and 13 boards, out muscling JJ Hickson consistently for rebounds.
6. Commitment to Going Inside The commitment to playing through the bigs was obvious in this one. Nene, Okafor, Seraphin and Booker combined for 39 of the Wizards 84 shots compared to the average of just under 28. But the stats don't even tell the whole story as it was clear from the get-go the Wizards wanted to attack in the post. This may have been the game plan specific to attacking the Blazers' thin front line as they play Aldridge and Hickson major, major minutes. But we could also see it more going forward as it clearly was effective. To outscore the Blazers in the paint when they go to Aldridge and Hickson so much is a very good sign going forward.
7. The Starters This year has seen our starters and our bench score about equally, but last night that was not the case. The bench only accounted for 31 of the 98 points as the starters took the scoring load last night, especially thanks to big nights from Webster and Nene. The Wizards' bench still destroyed the Blazers' bench 31-15, but that's to be expected given that the Blazers bench is last in the league in scoring and the Wizards bench is the second best (only the Clippers are better, mainly due to Jamal Crawford). Also, all five starters finished in positive +/- numbers.
8. Webster Showing Off Martell Webster spent the first five years of his career in Portland and since he left, he clearly still likes playing at the Rose Garden. Over the five games he has spent there as a visitor, he has scored at least 19 points three times, well over his career average. Last night of course he did just that, exploding for 24 points on 8/11 shooting. Webster had everything working, keeping Batum on his heels as he knocked down 4/6 three-pointers and was also getting to and finishing at the basket.
9. Turnovers The game was an incredible one, but it was far from perfection. At times during the middle two quarters when the offense went stale, the Wizards seemed to be turning the ball over on every other possession. For the first time since he's been back, Wall seemed to be forcing things a little bit instead of letting the game come to him. He also seemed at times to be playing faster than the rest of his teammates as they weren't ready for some of the looks he was giving them. This will certainly come with time though as this Wizards team continues to get used to playing with their star point guard. The Wizards turned the ball over 15 times in total (the Blazers got 21 points off those turnovers), which is actually lower than their season average, but most of it came in a concentrated time frame which allowed the Blazers to stay in the game when their offense was really stuttering.