Nene gives thanks after the Wiz hold on for a Tuesday night win. (AP/Nick Wass)
We swear, we won't do a special post every time the Washington Wizards win a game, but considering Tuesday night's four-point triumph was just their second in 15 tries and that it came over the defending NBA champion Miami Heat, a bit of acknowledgement seemed to be in order. Maybe not a clownish, apoplectic freakout on the level of CSN Washington's Michael Jenkins, but, y'know, a little something for the effort. Because the effort was most assuredly there.
Randy Wittman's squad came out aggressive, working their way to 14 free-throw attempts (hitting 10) in the first quarter to hang a 30-point opening stanza on the champs behind hot starts from point guard A.J. Price (nine points on 3 for 3 from the field and 2 for 2 from the line) and sixth man Jordan Crawford (seven points in nine minutes off the Wizards bench). While the Heat often looked laconic on defense (ESPN.com's Tom Haberstroh, as close a Miami watcher as anybody, said the team, stars included, played with "charity game level intensity" on that end of the court) the Wizards continued to push, overcoming Miami's superior offensive talent with all-hands-on-deck depth.
LeBron James (26 points on 50 percent shooting, 13 rebounds and 11 assists, his first triple-double of the season), Dwyane Wade (24 points on 9-for-19 shooting) and Chris Bosh (20 points on just 11 shots to go with 12 rebounds and four assists) each got theirs, but with point guard Mario Chalmers sidelined after jamming his left ring finger in the second quarter, Shane Battier missing his third straight game with a sprained right MCL, and designated sharpshooters Ray Allen and Mike Miller struggling (a combined 8 for 22 from the floor and 6 for 17 from 3-point range), Miami found itself surprisingly overmatched by a Wizards squad that got 64 points, 25 rebounds and 16 assists from its bench, led by the trio of Crawford, third-year big man Kevin Seraphin and veteran swingman Martell Webster.
The win was likely especially sweet for Webster, a seven-year pro who has taken his role as a veteran leader on the struggling Wiz very seriously — recall, if you will, his declaration that the team's third game of year was a "must-win," because Washington needed to establish a competitive baseline — and who seemed a bit miffed by the way the Verizon Center faithful welcomed the visiting Heat during pregame announcements. From Michael Lee at the Washington Post:
"Did you hear the announcements? They call LeBron's [name], it's like, 'Geez,' We won on the road at home. How crazy is that?" said Martell Webster, who scored 13 points off the bench and defended James after starter Trevor Ariza went down with a strained left calf early in the third quarter. "In this locker room, we have to believe in each other." [...]
The Wizards hope the victory will help them turn around a season that already seems lost. "If we keep it up, we'll be above .500 in no time," Webster said.
Especially if they keep up their undefeated mark in games attended by Washington Redskins quarterback and District of Columbia golden boy Robert Griffin III, who sat courtside for the win and, as our friends at the Yahoo! Sports Minute hypothesize, might just have been the good luck charm the Wizards needed:
Fresh off the Redskins' 17-16 win over longtime rivals the New York Giants — the NFL's defending champions, which makes us wonder if there's a theme at work here — on Monday night, Griffin's appearance sent Washington fans' hearts aflutter, as Lee wrote:
Early in the first quarter, center Emeka Okafor went to the foul line and the crowd erupted to raucous applause — but only because Griffin was casually making his way to Wizards owner Ted Leonsis's courtside seats. As Griffin grabbed a seat, one fan shouted, "Suit up!"
As fun an idea as that is, it turned out the Wiz didn't need him on Tuesday. They never trailed the Heat after a Seraphin bucket gave them a 17-16 lead at the 4:50 mark of the opening quarter, and with the game in the balance late, it was the veteran Heat — Allen and Miller each missing a pair of jumpers that would've tied Miami or given them the lead in the final three minutes, James missing two free throws with 2:30 left and two tie-or-lead 3-pointers in the last 20 seconds — who came up short, while Crawford and Seraphin scored 11 of Washington's final 12 points to win it.
If all that sounds strange, it is; more often than not, the coin-flip of an open Ray Allen or Mike Miller jumper is going to land on heads, talent will win out and the Heat will take a game like this. But it didn't on Tuesday, as happens from time-to-time over the course of an 82-game season, and the result was Washington fans going home happy, even if they started the night making the Wiz feel like they were on the road.