Wizards reserves set stage for final push in Detroit

December 31, 2013

Here we come to save the day… (Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports)

DETROIT – Kevin Seraphin let Washington Wizards Coach Randy Wittman know on Monday that his sore right knee finally felt well enough for him to play and that he would be available that night against the Detroit Pistons. But as the first half unfolded, Seraphin watched, anxiously, as Pistons big men Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe feasted on offensive rebounds and Detroit “punked” — as many players would say in the locker afterward — the Wizards with physical play.

“I was just waiting for him to call my name,” Seraphin said. “In the first half, they was getting all of the rebounds and I said: ‘Give me some of this. I want this.’ I wanted to get in so bad.”

Wittman finally gave Seraphin his shot in the second half, and the native of French Guiana didn’t disappoint. Seraphin was joined by fellow reserves Otto Porter Jr., Martell Webster, Garrett Temple and Nene when the Wizards turned a 12-point, third-quarter deficit into a two-point fourth-quarter lead in roughly four minutes to help Washington seize a thrilling 106-99 win at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

“Our second group did big for us at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth in getting the lead and we had to come in and close it out,” John Wall said. “The bench put us right where we want to be.”

Nene got the rally started when he made a layup and a free throw to end the third period, then found Webster for a layup that brought the Wizards within 87-80 at the start of the fourth quarter.

Porter, getting some critical fourth-quarter minutes again, stole the ball from Pistons veteran Chauncey Billups and sprinted up the court. He missed the layup, but Seraphin got the offensive rebound and made a layup. Seraphin then made another layup and kicked the ball out Porter, who dropped an 18-foot jumper to cut the deficit to one point.

After Josh Smith missed a layup, Webster buried a three-pointer that put the Wizards up, 89-87.

“That’s big for us, especially since guys have been struggling a little bit,” Trevor Ariza said. “To see them see the ball go in a  little bit, that’s big for them and a good feeling for everybody. I’m happy that they helped us get that lead, help us get that win.”

Coach Randy Wittman put his starters in to finish out the game, but the Wizards wouldn’t have had any shot of beating the Pistons on the road if not for the bench, which contributed 35 points. It was the fourth time in the past five games that the reserves scored at least 35 points in a game.

“If we’re going to continue to have that spark off the bench and have guys to give us consistent, good minutes and good effort, we should be a good team,” Marcin Gortat said.

In a bizarre line, considering John Wall and Bradley Beal made the big fourth-quarter shots, every starter had a negative plus-minus — Marcin Gortat was the worst at minus-11 and Wall was a minus-10 — while every member of the Wizards’ bench had a positive plus minus.

Webster and Temple were both plus-17, Porter was plus-14, Nene and Seraphin were plus-13. Vesely only played in the first half and was a plus-4.

“Just come in and play hard. That’s basically it,” Porter said after scoring seven points in 10 minutes. “We came in and played hard, played together and things was clicking for us. I mean, we just tried to come in and give our team a spark.”

The bench provided a lift right away. The Wizards trailed 32-30 when Temple and Porter entered the game, but Porter scored five consecutive points – surpassing his previous career high in less than two minutes – to give his team the lead.

“He’s coming along,” Wittman said of Porter. “I’ve felt that the last couple of games. He played with some aggression. And it shows. That’s how he’s got to continue to play and he’s doing fine. I see a little comfort in his eyes, now rather than the deer in the headlight situation.”

Al Harrington is currently sidelined after having surgery on his right knee and Wittman will face some tough decisions with his rotation if Porter continues to make progress over the next few weeks.

Wittman explained that he prefers to keep Nene in a reserve role to help him maintain his current minute restriction. Nene had 11 points, six rebounds and five assists in 28 minutes but still was around for the finish. He said recently that he doesn’t mind that role.

“That’s a doctor conversation with the trainer, with the coach so I can recover,” Nene said. “I have no pride if I start or if I don’t start, at the end of the day I’m going to do my job. [Trevor Booker] has been playing really well, so if that’s a coach decision to put him on the bench again, that is not a problem, but he is playing well.”

Seraphin returned after missing the previous two games with his knee ailment but the Wizards have won the past four games that he has returned to the regular rotation. After the loss in Minnesota, Seraphin said he was optimistic that he wouldn’t be out much longer and he had six points and two rebounds in 11 minutes.

“For four weeks, my knee has been hurting me. It was great to be 100 percent,” Seraphin said. “Since the beginning, we have something, now we have to put everything together. We start to play as a team. we start to know each other and really play great right now. Everybody do their thing. Nobody try to do more than they can do. And that’s our strength right now. We’re going to make some noise. That’s all.”

Nene is often tough on Seraphin but gave him some positive feedback in the locker room afterward.

“I just told him: ‘I can’t do it for you. I can help you’ But he did amazing job,” Nene said of Seraphin. “He went in on the right position, he read the right space and he put himself in the game. That help a lot.”

Nene then smiled and patted Seraphin on the back.

“Huh, big fella? Just do your thing, bro,” Nene said. “I don’t like to talk about him because the next day, he goes, uhhhh….”

Nene made a funny face and started acting as if he was dizzy, using humor to explain Seraphin’s lack of focus at times.

“No, no, no,” a smiling Seraphin said. “That’s not true.”

Nene patted him on the back again and they both laughed.

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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Michael Lee · December 30, 2013

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