Washington 101, Phoenix 95, Game 42 of 82 (Wizards 21-21)

  • Ralph Thompson Jr
Photo Credit: NBA.com

Photo Credit: NBA.com

Washington commenced a four-game road trip Friday night in Phoenix, against a surprisingly good, surprisingly deep Suns’ team. Phoenix is coming off a 24-point home win over the Indiana Pacers (yes, the Pacers). The Suns would finish their five-game home stand Friday night, going 3-1 to this point. Phoenix would go without point guard Eric Bledsoe (sprained right knee on 4 January). Washington would miss Martell Webster (flu).

In an efficient show of teamwork, the Wizards hung with the up-tempo Suns (24-18) by slowing the pace for long stretches. When crunch time set in, coach Randy Wittman went to Bradley Beal to close out the contest. In the last 3:20 of game, Beal scored seven points, including a breakaway dunk to seal a six-point Washington victory.

The teams were evenly matched in the opening period. There were ten lead changes in the quarter, highlighted by Phoenix’s Channing Frye making four of his first six three-point attempts. He finished the quarter with those 12 points. Good thing for Washington John Wall tallied 11 points and 3 assists. The Wizards (52.2%) and the Suns (54.5%) shot well from the floor. The quarter ended with Washington leading 30-29. A high-scoring shootout seemed to be looming in the future.

The second quarter was where Washington showed it could control tempo and keep Phoenix within striking range. The teams were tied at 51 with 57.8 seconds left in the half. Marcin Gortat’s eight points in the quarter kept the Wizards’ going as the pace slowed. In that last minute, however, the Suns’ Goran Dragic scored on back-to-back layups, and Gerald Green punctuated with half’s scoring with a dunk off a Dragic pass. That late 6-0 run gave Phoenix a 57-51 lead at halftime. Frye’s 12 points and Dragic’s 11 points/8 assists led Phoenix. Wall’s 12 points/7 assists led Washington, while Gortat added 10 points. Phoenix’s bench outscored their Washington counterparts 24 to 7 in the half.

In the third quarter, the referees started calling the game a bit closer. The physicality allowed in the first half was reined in during this quarter. Washington took advantage, outscoring the hosts 31-19 in the period. Trevor Ariza’s 13 points in the quarter gave the Wizards a boost. Washington led 82-76 at the end of three, and the team looked confident as the quarter ended.

The fourth quarter was hard-fought, as the two teams tussled for control. Washington had six turnovers in the quarter, as Phoenix cranked up the defensive intensity. Nene had three turnovers on his own, sullying an otherwise strong statistical night for the Brazilian post player. The Suns’ Miles Plumlee hit a hook shot at the 2:43 mark to tie the score at 93. That’s when Beal went to work. He scored seven of Washington’s last eight points, nailing a three, scoring a basket from the foul line area, and grabbing a

Photo Credit: NBA.com

Photo Credit: NBA.com

long rebound and outracing the Suns’ defense for a breakaway dunk for the final score. All in all, a great team win for the Wizards to start the western swing.

For the game, Washington shot 45.3% from the field, and accumulated 44 rebounds, 22 assists on 39 baskets, 13 steals, 17 turnovers and 7 blocked shots. All five Wizards starters scored in double figures. Ariza led the team with 23 points, and added 7 rebounds. Nene and Wall added 18 points each. Nene contributed 8 rebounds, and Wall added 12 assists.

Phoenix shot 47.9% from the floor, and totaled 30 rebounds, 19 assists on 34 baskets, 8 steals, 21 turnovers and 3 blocked shots. Five Suns also scored in double figures. Dragic led the team with 19 points and 11 assists. Frye added 16, while Plumlee contributed 14 points and a team-high six rebounds.

Washington had 19 offensive rebounds for the game, compared to nine for Phoenix. This helped make up for the Suns bench outscoring the Wizards’ bench 31-11.

This was a good win for a Washington team that needs wins. Now that the Wizards are at .500 yet again, here comes another opportunity to gain a winning record. Next game is Saturday night at improving Utah, followed by games at Golden State (Tuesday, 28 January) and at the Los Angeles Clippers (Wednesday, 29 January). This Washington win should alert the rest of the Association that maybe, just maybe, the Wizards are starting to put it all together. Maybe.



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