Without their two best players for the foreseeable future, the Wizards need the rest of their roster to step into roles and situations they might not be familiar with. Saturday night at Verizon Center as they mounted a comeback but ultimately fell, 89-86 to the Boston Celtics, the Wizards needed to find someone to carry the load down the stretch.
Kevin Seraphin was the logical choice. In his first game after missing three weeks with a strained right calf, Seraphin picked up where he left off at the end of last season to record his 17th consecutive game in double-digit scoring. He made 8 for 9 shots and recorded 19 points and seven rebounds in 28:35 of playing time and was a major reason the Wizards were been able to close the gap.
“He can’t be stopped in the post. I’ve always believed in him,” Trevor Booker said. “Give him the ball down there, he’s going to go to work.”
Seraphin entered the contest late in the first quarter and it was quickly apparent that his presence as a legitimate low-post option opened up more options for the offense. He made his first seven shots and combined with guard Jordan Crawford (8 for 14, 21 points) to fuel Washington’s rally.
The duo’s offensive rhythm was at its best as Seraphin and Crawford accounted for all of the Wizards’ points in a 15-6 run in the final 6:51 of the third quarter. In the fourth, Seraphin’s turnaround jumper gave Washington its first lead of the game (86-84) with 2:56 remaining.
Defensively, Seraphin had the unenviable task of matching up against Kevin Garnett. While Garnett finished with 15 points (7 for 15) and seven rebounds, Seraphin found success in containing Boston’s big man late in the contest. Garnett recorded just one point and went 0 for 5 in the fourth quarter, and Seraphin’s efforts on defense didn’t go unnoticed by his teammates.
“He played him well defensively and he didn’t back down offensively,” Martell Webster said. “He gave him everything that he could ever want, that he could ask for. I really tip my hat off to Kevin because he came out and played – not really being in shape, he came out there and performed.”
For as strong a night as Seraphin had, though, it was marred in the final minute. Trailing by one and with Crawford hobbled by a twisted ankle, the Wizards turned to the third-year big man as they tried to regain the lead.
Although he started the final 15 games of the 2011-12 regular season while Nene was injured, Seraphin has rarely faced the high-pressure situation of needing to lead a team to a comeback victory.
When he faced pressure from Garnett while in the left side of the paint, Seraphin whipped an errant pass across the court and out of bounds for a costly turnover with 28.2 seconds left. He wasn’t the only Wizard to miss an opportunity late in the game, but that provided little solace for the 6-foot-9 Seraphin.
“I just have to take a little more time, be more patient,” Seraphin said. “Because when they press me I just try to pass the ball quick and I should keep it and just try to play, take my time. This time, I rushed everything and now I know. Next time, I won’t do the same mistake.”
Said Coach Randy Wittman: “We’ve got to learn to find somebody to play through at the end with the injuries that we have and we tried to do that. You’ve got to learn to make plays at some point. If you never put him in that situation he’s never going to learn and I thought he played well. …. He’s got to learn from it.”