Wizards vs. Bobcats: Washington hangs on for first road win of NBA season
By Michael Lee,
CHARLOTTE — If the Washington Wizards were going to finally join the rest of the teams in the NBA and record a road win, they were going to need a few things to work in their favor. That included John Wall making his first three-pointer of the season, JaVale McGee getting an opponent to goaltend a seemingly off-target jump-hook, and Nick Young to bury a string of clutch baskets in the fourth quarter.
But more importantly, they would need an opponent so weak and wounded that it wouldn’t matter that the Wizards had more than their share of mishaps. It all converged on Saturday at Time Warner Cable Arena, as the Wizards claimed their first road win in nine tries, eeking out a 102-99 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats.
JaVale McGee scored a team-high 22 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and was credited with the decisive basket late. With the Wizards clinging to a one-point lead, McGee released a hook shot that appeared to be short, but Byron Mullens slapped it on the way down, picking up a goaltending call. McGee leaned over and clapped as he ran down the floor.
A great defensive sequence followed in which several Bobcats players passed the ball around but were unable to get a good look for a three-pointer. Bobcats forward Boris Diaw eventually drove inside and missed a layup and McGee was fouled as he grabbed the rebound. With a chance to seal the win at the foul line, McGee missed both free throws and Bobcats forward Tyrus Thomas secured the rebound.
The Wizards could finally exhale when Matt Carroll missed a potential tying three-pointer as time expired. Young, who scored 21 points, celebrated by tossing the ball to the other end of the floor and gleefully hugging teammate Kevin Seraphin.
After committing 47 turnovers in their past two games — including a season-high 24 the night before in Houston — the Wizards were much more disciplined with the ball, recording just 13 miscues, which the Bobcats were only able to convert into 12 points. Washington also shot a season-high 52.6 percent from the floor against the same it handled rather easily on Wednesday, which continued to be short-handed without three starters.
The Wizards (4-16) led by 12 points early in the third quarter, but were unable to handle the prosperity. McGee had a driving dunk over two Bobcat defenders to give the Wizards a 69-59 lead, but the Bobcats (3-18) went on an 11-3 run and got within 72-70 before Wall coolly buried his first three-pointer of the season. He celebrated by flashing three fingers near his ankles as he ran down the floor.
But the Bobcats continued push back and took a 92-90 lead when Diaw fed Mullens for an easy dunk. Young responded with four straight points, coercing Carroll into fouling him, then drilling a fall-away jumper.
Rookie Jan Vesely got his second straight start at power forward in place of Andray Blatche. Vesely had a difficult outing the night before in Houston, where veteran forward Luis Scola schooled him and scored 19 points in just three quarters. But Wittman praised Vesley for his basketball intelligence and decided to give him another opportunity to help the team. He only finished with two points, but he made several solid plays to earn his time on the floor.
But it didn’t matter who started, because Trevor Booker, a South Carolina native playing in front of family and friends, came off the bench and had his best game of the regular season, scoring 16 points and grabbing three rebounds.
Vesely helped the Wizards close the first half on a 13-4 run. He cut to the basket and caught a pass from McGee for a dunk, then Wall batted the ball away from Diaw and Vesely passed the ball ahead to Wall for an emphatic one-handed dunk over Bobcats forward Tyrus Thomas. Young made a floating jumper and an 18-foot pull-up to give the Wizards a 55-46 lead.
Mullens responded with two free throws, but the Wizards ended the second period with a beautiful display of ball movement that ended with Rashard Lewis making a three-pointer from the right corner, directly in from his team’s bench, that gave them a 58-48 lead at the break.
The Wizards had 19 assists in the first half, with Jordan Crawford leading the way with six. Crawford also had nine points. Wall and Young both had 11 points to lead the Wizards in the first half.
Blatche struggled in his eight-minute stint in the first half. He had just four points and struggled to defend Mullens, who scored 17 points in just 14 first-half minutes, with many coming simply by running the floor. Blatche was rarely able to keep up and he wound up sitting the entire second half with a bag of ice wrapped around his left calf.
Charlotte’s Kemba Walker recorded his first career triple-double with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists.