Washington 116, Los Angeles Lakers 111, Game 14 of 82
For the NBA fan who wondered why John Wall was rewarded Eastern Conference Player of the Week on Monday, this game is Exhibit A. NBA TV fans voted for this game as their “Fan Night” nationwide telecast. Fans from all over got the chance to see Wall score a game-high 31 points, along with 9 assists, 6 rebounds and 3 steals to lead the Wizards (6-8) to a home win over the depleted Lakers (7-8).
Both teams are missing key players. Bradley Beal’s Monday MRI disclosed a stress injury to his right fibula. He’ll be out for two weeks before being re-evaluated. The Lakers are missing the recently-contract-extended Kobe Bryant, still recovering from last season’s Achilles tendon tear.
Two bits of good news for Washington on Tuesday night were the returns of wings Trevor Ariza and Chris Singleton. Ariza missed five games after straining his right hamstring. Singleton missed the first 13 games of the season with a broken bone in his left foot. With Beal’s injury, the Wizards are fortunate to have two wings coming back at this time.
The opening period saw both teams attacking on offense. For the basketball fan who likes good passing that leads to good shots, it was enjoyable. For the fan who likes lock-down defense, it was jarring. Washington shot 72% from the field, while Los Angeles shot 52%. A Jan Vesely block of a Xavier Henry layup attempt was a bit of late defense that allowed the Wizards to hold on to a 31-29 lead at the end of the period.
The second quarter was a continuation of the same. Both teams struggled to “stop ball”, as each team continued to press a high tempo. As well as the Wizards played, the Lakers wouldn’t fade. The largest lead of the half was Wizards 41, Lakers 35 with 8:32 left in the half. Washington was able get in Los Angeles’ way just enough to keep the halftime lead, 59-55. Nene’s point production was crucial – he scored 19 in the first half. Wall added 12 with 4 assists. The Lakers were led at the half by Jordan Farmar’s 11 points and 4 assists. Three other Lakers (Pau Gasol, Jodie Meeks Steve Blake) added 8 points each.
The third quarter started with Washington’s starters increasing the defensive intensity. Los Angeles’ 6 turnovers in the period (three by Gasol)
allowed Washington to maintain some level of control in the contest. Wall’s six points and Nene’s five allowed the Wizards to lead 82-77 going into the fourth quarter.
In hindsight, the third quarter was the outlier. Both the Wizards and Lakers scored 34 in the fourth. Farmar’s eleven points in the period caused some anxious moments for Washington’s home fans. Wall’s scoring thirteen of the team’s last 15 points provided relief. In that stretch, he also assisted on Nene’s basket that got his career-high 30. It was just a great game by a young point guard demonstrating how he’s capable of taking over games, and leading his team to a win.
No, it wasn’t perfect basketball. The Wizards overextended defending a few pick-and-rolls, allowing Lakers like Gasol a free pass to the basket. Los Angeles’ quick ball movement found Farmar and Nick Young open shots much too often. Still, a win’s a win. Washington has to feel optimistic about the result and what it means going forward.
Washington shot 52.9% from the floor, and tallied 42 rebounds, 25 assists on 46 baskets, 15 (!) steals, 10 turnovers and 3 blocked shots. After Wall’s 31 and Nene’s career-high 30, Martell Webster contributed 20 and a game-high 9 rebounds. Gortat added 15 points and 8 rebounds. Trevor Ariza, in his return to game action, pitched in with 13 points and 7 rebounds.
Los Angeles shot 53% from the floor, and totaled 34 rebounds, 30 assists on 44 baskets, 4 steals, 16 turnovers and 5 blocked shots. The Lakers had seven players in double figures, led by Farmar’s 22 off the bench. Gasol added 17 points and 8 rebounds, while reserve/former Wizard Nick Young added 16 points.
Next on the schedule is the second half of yet another back-to-back, a Wednesday night game at Milwaukee. After that, the Wizards are at Indiana Friday night (29 November). Washington should win at Milwaukee if things hold to form. But, the Pacers are one of the best teams in the league, and they feature Paul George. George is asserting himself as one of the best players in the Association. Friday night especially will be an early-season litmus test for the Wizards – how good can they be the rest of the year?
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