CINCINNATI — Trevor Ariza and Al Harrington are two of the more seasoned players on the Washington Wizards roster, and they’ve been around long enough to not let shooting slumps — especially those in the preseason — to keep them up late at night. But there they were, up until 6 a.m. Wednesday, discussing their inability to make shots this month and searching for solutions.
They only needed one: keep shooting until they fall.
In the Wizards’ preseason finale on Wednesday night, Ariza and Harrington combined to make eight of the team’s 15 three-pointers and combined for 36 points in a 101-82 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers at US Bank Arena.
“It’s funny,” Harrington said after scoring 17 points. “That’s just how the game is sometimes. If you don’t keep putting that work in, push everybody to get in the gym to get extra shots, up because that’s the only way you’re going to win at the end of the day. You can only play so much defense but you got to make shots.”
Harrington was given the night off on Tuesday against Detroit, where the 33-year-old was heckled about his age. But the extra rest paid dividends for Harrington, who was aggressive and effective in the post and on the perimeter against Cleveland. Brought to Washington to help space the floor, the 6-foot-9 Harrington made three-pointers, matching his total from his previous four games.
Ariza also matched his three-point total from the previous six games by going 5 of 7 from long distance and scoring 19 points. On the bus ride from the team hotel to the arena before the preseason finale, Ariza expressed his frustration over his shooting woes after he missed 15 or his first 20 three-point attempts and shot 32.2 percent (19 for 59) from the field overall.
“He said, ‘I got to make shots,’ ” Bradley Beal said, recalling the conversation. “I said: ‘You’re fine. You’re going to make shots eventually. Once you make that one, you’re going to have that rhythm and you’re going to keep making them.’ ”
Ariza made his first two shots against the Cavaliers and was even more into it on the defensive end, recording a preseason-high four steals. The Wizards needed more from Ariza with Martell Webster sitting out with a sprained left ankle.
“I finally got into a rhythm and made shots. Leading into the regular season, it does feel good to end the preseason on that note,” Ariza said. “This was our last game to find a rhythm.”
Coach Randy Wittman made getting ready for thee regular season a point of interest in his pregame pep talk, telling his players, “Let’s try to make this your best game each as a team and as individuals.”
After initially falling behind by 16 points, his players eventually responded in the second half. Ariza made a three-pointer to give the Wizards a 73-72 lead entering the final period. Harrington made two more three-pointers to start the fourth quarter and the Wizards never looked back.
“We were just talking about what we can do. Stay the course, stay locked in, knowing that they’re going to fall,” Ariza said of his conversation with Harrington. “Doing the things that we know we do well. Starting with the defense, let that flow into our offense.”
With their work complete, Ariza and Harrington were two of biggest cheerleaders on the bench, pushing their teammates to extend the lead to 21 points.
“Anytime you winning, it makes everything better,” Harrington. “It makes everybody feel good about themselves.”