They were down by 14 points barely eight minutes into the game, rallied within two, then quickly fell back down by 13. They took control behind Bradley Beal’s shooting and a star-stifling defense, then experienced a deflating second-half swing in which their nine-point lead became an 11-point deficit in just 11 minutes. But the Wizards never thought they were out when they were down Friday night against the Brooklyn Nets and eventually claimed a 112-108 overtime victory at Verizon Center.
“I told our guys that was a pretty gutty win for us,” Coach Randy Wittman said.
The Wizards’ determination could be found in many places, but it probably started early Friday morning, when John Wall was awakened in the middle of the night with back spasms and took every measure possible to be available for a game Washington had to have with a tough road trip ahead. He received treatment, including acupuncture, and didn’t allow his injury to keep him from applying relentless defense and setting up his teammates with a season-high 14 assists. He also had two huge steals in the final two minutes of regulation and blocked out a rough shooting night to hit a huge pull-up jumper in overtime.
Marcin Gortat had a rough start defensively against Nets all-star center Brook Lopez, who abused Gortat on the first play when he made a spin move and was fouled as he hit a bank shot. Lopez scored 12 of his team-high 23 points in the first quarter, when the Nets jumped on the Wizards, 20-6. But Gortat held Lopez to five points in the second half and shutting him out in overtime.
Trevor Ariza was missing shots from all over, fumbling the ball when he attempted to drive and making his presence felt only on the defensive end. But when Nene forced the Nets to collapse on him under the basket, Ariza was wide open and made his only three-pointer – after missing his previous four – to put the Wizards ahead for good.
“We stayed with it,” Wittman said. “I think our guys are learning that it’s a long game, and a lot of things can change like that, but you’ve got to make it change. It’s just not going to happen. We went out and made a change.”
Al Harrington and Beal helped lead the Wizards stampede back into the game they combined to make four three-pointers in the first period. The Wizards cut the deficit to two points when backup guard Eric Maynor leaped at half court and found a racing Kevin Seraphin under the basket for a dunk. But within four minutes, the Nets were back up 52-39 when Andrei Kirilenko stole a pass from Harrington and fed Lopez for a one-handed jam.
But the Wizards again made another strong push to close out the second quarter and entered the locker room trailing by just five points.
“We didn’t play well the first half, but when we came into the locker room and we realized we were actually down only five points, we said, ‘Hey, we going to get this game,’ ” Gortat said, “Because as bad as we played, we had extra confidence in the second half. We came out hard. We start dominating a bit more.”
The Wizards led 71-62 when Wall made a full-court jaunt, splitting a series of Nets defenders for a blazing-speed layup, but the lead was gone by the end of the third quarter. And with about four minutes left, they were down by nine points and seemingly staring at their fourth loss of the season.
“We were down, could’ve quit, but guys were gutsy and made plays when we had to,” Harrington said.
Nene was around many of the biggest plays, scoring 12 points in the final five minutes or regulation, including the putback that forced the extra period. In overtime, Nene didn’t score, but he had a steal and two assists, setting up Ariza for the three-pointer and finding Beal for an emphatic dunk over Paul Pierce. Beal flashed a smile as he backpedaled on defense.
“Nothing but positive vibes,” Beal said, when asked to describe the mood of the team in huddles. “Whenever you’re down like that, it’s a game of runs. They make a run, we make a run. Back and forth, and at the end it’s going to bear down to who wants it the most. During those time outs, we all stuck together. We said, ‘We’re fine.’ We’re poised. We continued to do what we needed to do, got stops, we scored the ball and next thing, we ended up winning the game.”