Wizards’ team effort sets stage for Bradley Beal’s heroics


Yeah, we did it! Emphasis on we! (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Before Bradley Beal finally put the Wizards on the right side of a last-second victory with an off-balance, one-handed jumper with three-tenths of a second remaining Monday against Oklahoma City, Martell Webster provided his best two-way effort of the season, Jan Vesely finally overcame an embarrassing statistic and Emeka Okafor showed that he doesn’t need Nene next to him to get double-doubles.

Beal’s thrilling game-winner (see the video and a “DAGGER!” from Steve Buckhantz here) overshadowed many of the solid individual performances that helped the Wizards prevail, 101-99, over the Thunder, but the contributions for Webster, Vesely, Okafor, Kevin Seraphin – and even the injured Trevor Ariza and A.J. Price – were hardly overlooked by Coach Randy Wittman or anyone in the locker room.

“That was a great win for us,” said Ariza, who returned from a strained left calf and now has wins over Miami and Oklahoma City in his past two games with the Wizards. “We were down players and everybody came in and stepped up.”

With Jordan Crawford nursing a sore left ankle, Nene suffering from a new ailment – right knee tendinitis – after dealing with a sore left foot all season and Cartier Martin hyperextending his right on Sunday in Miami, the Wizards lost nearly 36 points from the NBA’s most inept offense.

“Whenever you have guys missing, that’s part of the game,” Okafor said. “You’re not going to have your complete roster all of the time. It’s not a reason to give up and that’s what we don’t do. We don’t ever give up. That just shows the character of the guys.”

Needing someone to help fill the void, Webster responded with season highs of four three-pointers and 22 points. After Thunder all-star forward Kevin Durant blew past him for an uncontested vicious dunk that brought Oklahoma City within 95-94 with 2 minutes 4 seconds remaining, Webster caught the ball in the right corner and made a three-pointer as Russell Westbrook slapped on his arm.

Webster let his tongue wag as he pumped his fist, then finished the rare four-point play with a free throw.

Durant scored the next five points and tied the score on a three-pointer with 36.5 seconds remaining, but Webster was all over him most of the night, making the District native earn his 29 points.

“Martell gave us an all-around game,” Wittman said. “When you have to guard Durant, that’s not fun. That’s the best scorer in our league, bar none, because he can do it in so many different ways. I thought he made Kevin work. I think it just bled into his offensive game.”

Webster had a blocked shot and a steal, intercepting a Westbrook pass intended for Durant and dribbling the length of the floor for a dunk with Westbrook chasing. “There is no locking any player like that up,” Webster said of Durant. “It’s containing and forcing him into a contested jump shot. All of his shots were contested. A lot of them went in but some of the key ones he took went out.”

Vesely entered the game with as many points (58) as fouls this season, but he tipped the scale in favor of his offense, pitching in a season-high 10 points while committing just two fouls. He added seven rebounds while showing the high energy and hustle that persuaded  the Wizards to take him sixth overall in the 2011 NBA draft.

“I just try to play hard, go for every rebound. And I just play. I felt pretty good,” Vesely said. “I feel much more better than I did two weeks ago or a week ago. I’ll just work to play like this every game. …It was a great game. A team win. So I’m very happy.”

Okafor has really started to come into his own as the season progresses, and he really started to improve once he was matched up alongside Nene. Matched up in the front court with Seraphin for the fifth time this season, Okafor had 12 points and 12 rebounds as the Wizards won for the first time in the five games that he recorded a double-double. Okafor added two blocks, rejecting Durant’s dunk attempt with a swat that sent Durant to the floor.

Seraphin had 19 points and Garrett Temple helped force Westbrook into a rough shooting night as the all-star needed 17 shots to score 17 points.

“The moral of tonight’s story was buying into the system,” Webster said. “Defensively and offensively, we did that. Defensively, we went out and laid it on the line. We got the win, that’s the only thing that matters.” 

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.

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Gene Wang · January 7, 2013