The Wizards are once again off to the worst start in franchise history, having lost 11 of their 12 games, after yet another double-digit loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. A 13-point loss is much more encouraging than a 31-point drubbing, but the Wizards actually saw much more turnaround than the point differential.
A night after contributing to what Coach Flip Saunders and several players described as “selfish play” and getting benched for the entire fourth quarter, JaVale McGee and Nick Young combined to score 50 points and helped the Wizards look somewhat competitive in a 103-90 loss against the much-deeper 76ers.
McGee let it be known on Saturday that he wasn’t going to have a repeat of his worst game of the season on the opening sequence of the game, when grabbed Young’s missed layup and made a short layup off the backboard. And it was obvious that Young wasn’t going to have another poor shooting night in the third period, when he got the ball near the three-point line, dribbled past Jodie Meeks, spun right around Jrue Holiday, then dipped underneath Spencer Hawes for a ridiculous layup.
“We got to hope what we can start to do is get more guys to play better together,” Coach Flip Saunders said after the Wizards were only able to have three players score in double figures. “We have a very small margin of error. If you look at most teams in the NBA, when you pick out a game, three players lead a team usually to win. We had two. A lot of games we haven’t had many. we’re proud of ourselves for having two on the same night.”
McGee made his first eight shots, staying close to the rim for hooks and dunks, and finished with a season high 23 points, on 11-of-13 shooting, and added a career-high-tying 18 rebounds and five blocked shots.
He displayed the discipline that was absent the night before in Philadelphia, where he rushed several ill-advised shots and didn’t show much interest in playing defense as the Wizards lost, 120-89.
“I was just trying to be patient, just out there trying to help the team win, trying to play the right way,” said McGee, who missed 9 of 13 and had just one blocked shot on Friday. “I’m just trying to be consistent and trying to be a defensive presence for my team.”
McGee leads the NBA in total blocks with 38 and had an impressive rejection early, when 76ers forward Andre Iguodala fed Hawes on the break for what should’ve been an easy layup, except McGee came swooping from behind to slap the ball off the backboard and set up a scoring opportunity for John Wall.
“We would have liked him to play like that last night,” Saunders said. “That’s how he has to play from the standpoint of protect the rim, not chase shots, let things come to him, play off other people. I thought he had a very solid as far as all around game.”
Before the game, Young joked that he wasn’t going to go by his alias, “Swaggy P” anymore, with him and the Wizards struggling. Young shook his head in the locker room and told teammates Jordan Crawford and Andray Blatche, “I’m going back to my government name.”
Young decided to bring out some USC-themed signature Kobes with a cardinal and gold colorway to inspire some better play. He came out and had season highs with 27 points and seven rebounds, and shot at least 50 percent from the floor for the second game in a row and fourth game this season. “My teammates did a good job of finding me early and I got my confidence going and we all started knocking down shots,” Young said.
Not all. With Andray Blatche missing his third consecutive game with a bum right shoulder, the other Wizards forwards — Trevor Booker, Rashard Lewis and Chris Singleton — combined to go 4 of 22 from the field. Booker even airballed two shots in the paint, probably showing the effects of playing his fourth game in five nights.
McGee, though, didn’t have those problems, as he continues to promote his all-star campaign on Twitter, even as the Wizards struggle. “Whenever you’re losing, it’s hard to get things of that nature: all-star and players of the year, defensive, most improved, stuff like that,” he said. “It just doesn’t come to players that are losing, but I mean, just whatever.”