The night started with the Wizards watching something they didn’t want to see, continued with them being pleasantly surprised by what they saw, and ended with them experiencing a feeling that they desperately needed.
Kevin Seraphin joined the Wizards’ long list of injured big men when he strained his right calf in the first quarter. But with reserve Shavlik Randolph controlling the boards, Brian Cook showing considerable body control on a rare alley-oop and Jan Vesely bouncing back from a rough start, the Wizards rallied to pull out their first win of the preseason with a 99-95 victory over Cleveland at Quicken Loans Arena.
Bradley Beal made his first start and finished the game with a pair of free throws – after nearly blowing the game with two misses. Jordan Crawford didn’t let coming off the bench keep him from playing one his best games of the preseason and Shelvin Mack continued to protect the basketball while adding some offense to boot.
“A lot of guys stepped up,” said Cook, who matched Beal and Crawford with a team-high 14 points off the bench. “We had a great team effort.”
Randolph and Cook were both expected to get more minutes, with the Wizards entering the game without Nene (left foot), Trevor Booker (left hamstring), Emeka Okafor (stomach virus) and Chris Singleton (left shoulder), but there came a greater sense of urgency when Seraphin tried to cut left and felt a sharp pain in his right leg. When Coach Randy Wittman watched Seraphin hobbling off the floor in pain, he said to himself, “Not another.”
Seraphin will be evaluated on Sunday but as he left the arena wearing a walking boot, the third-year forward vowed that he was okay.
“We will look. I can put my feet on the floor and that doesn’t feel very bad,” Seraphin said. “But I’m going to be all right. Everything is in the mind.”
Coach Randy Wittman wants to believe Seraphin but he wasn’t optimistic that he would hear positive news before the Wizards play Brooklyn on Monday at the sparkling new Barclays Center.
“He keeps saying he’s going to be all right, but he’s not walking very good,” Wittman said. “Just seems to be, for some reason, can’t keep a big healthy. We had so many. I was worried leading into the preseason how I was going to get everybody minutes at the bigs. Now, I can’t get a big to get minutes.”
Wittman got the most that he could out of Randolph, who had nine rebounds in his most extended playing time of the preseason. Randolph’s tenacity on the glass was needed, since Tristan Thompson (18 points, 10 rebounds) and Anderson Varejao (11 points, 10 rebounds) dominated the offensive glass in the half.
“I try to stay ready and when my number was called make sure I went in and provided energy,” Randolph said after scoring five points and also handing out four assists. “The preseason is the preseason but you want to go 0-for. You don’t want to not win any games. I think it was great.”
Cook was especially spry against the Cavaliers, as he made three three-pointers, including a shot from long distance that gave the Wizards the lead for good, 95-93, with 51.5 seconds remaining. He also caught an alley-oop lob pass from Crawford and made an underhand layup in one motion. Martell Webster gave him a good ribbing afterward.
“Hey, man. He tried. Must’ve been a record or something. He got what, an inch and a half off the floor?” Webster said.
Crawford led the team with seven assists and said he knew someone was going to get the pass, since he also saw Beal was also around the area. “I knew one of them was going to get it so I just threw it.”
Crawford didn’t have the best shooting night (5 of 16), but he was active and didn’t pout about having to play a reserve role behind Beal.
“I wasn’t even thinking about it, on the real,” Crawford said.
Beal was impressive early on, as he made his first four shots and scored 12 points in the first half. He was mostly silent in the second half but he helped put the game away in the closing seconds. After A.J. Price gave the Wizards a 97-95 lead with 13.2 seconds left, he missed his second free throw but scrambled to get the rebound. Beal got the ball but stepped to the foul line and missed both attempts, but the Wizards recovered the ball and Beal was fouled again. He stroked both shots to claim his first win as a Wizard.
“Don’t be short,” Beal said he told himself when he stepped to the foul line. “Which is what I told myself the first time, but I ended up being short both times. I’m glad I got to redeem myself and just ice the game. It’s a lesson learned, to always stay concentrated on the line.”
Vesely was also able to regain his focus after picking up two quick fouls and being forced to the bench. He returned to finish with 13 points – 5 of 5 from the field, 3 of 4 from the foul line – and grab five rebounds.
“I was just thinking, it was stupid fouls and I was just hoping I would get the chance to get back in the game,” Vesely said. “We need to play hard. It doesn’t matter what happens. We continue playing hard and we won the game.”
Jannero Pargo got the start and Price got to finish, but Mack was solid while running the team. He scored nine points, including a coast-to-coast layup with Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving hounding, and had three assists with no turnovers. In three games, he has 13 assists with no turnovers.
“Just knowing the offense and having a rhythm with the guys, knowing what guys like, it’s easier,” Mack said, when asked about not committing any turnovers. “We’re coming together as a team. It’s only preseason, you just want to keep getting at it, continue to get better as the game goes.”
Wittman said the win could give the Wizards confidence the rest of the way.
“We didn’t do all things right, but one thing we did, we played hard and with heart and determination. We gutted a game out.”