Wizards vs. Lakers: Washington rallies from 21 points down to stun Los Angeles
By Michael Lee,
Yes, that was Nick Young leading a fast break, flipping a pass ahead to Trevor Booker for a layup rather than pulling up for a jumper. Yes, that was Roger Mason Jr. camped out in the corner, whirling around screens, burying three-pointer after three-pointer and confidently strutting down the floor. Yes, that was Kevin Seraphin soaring high above the rim to catch a missed layup by Shelvin Mack to dunk with two hands and swing on the rim.
And, yes, that was the Washington Wizards — a team known to cower under large deficits — staging an improbable comeback, rallying from a 21-point hole with 20 minutes remaining to defeat the Los Angeles Lakers, 106-101, before a sellout crowd Wednesday night at Verizon Center.
“When our backs are against the wall, can’t do nothing but go up,” Young said after scoring a game-high 19 points and handing out a career-high six assists as the Wizards snapped an eight-game losing streak to the Lakers. “We knew a lot of fans was going to be here tonight. You don’t want to keep on getting booed off your home court. It’s the Lakers. You’ve got to want to come out and play hard.”
Kobe Bryant was the player wearing a mask over his face Wednesday night, but it was the Wizards who assumed a different identity — that of a competent, resilient bunch, undeterred by a crowd that was so pro-Laker that Bryant heard chants of “M-V-P!” in the first half. Before the night was over, fans were chanting “Beat L.A.!” as the Wizards (9-29) pulled off their most incredible victory of the season.
“We started making some shots and the crowd got into it,” Wizards Coach Randy Wittman said. “All of a sudden, there was no more Laker fans.”
The Lakers (23-16) had probably never heard of Seraphin, forgotten about Mason and considered Young nothing more than a one-dimensional player who likes to shoot and shoot some more. But they probably left Verizon Center with a different perception of all three Wizards reserves, as Young provided a spark with his scoring and passing, Mason made four three-pointers and matched his season high with 14 points and the seldom-used Seraphin scored a career-high 14 points and had nine rebounds, actually outscoring the off-target Bryant in the fourth quarter.
“A lot of us are hungry to play,” Mason said. “I stay in Kevin’s ear, and the Lord’s given me a peace this season. I definitely haven’t gotten the minutes early this season, just staying persistent, being a leader, preaching what I’m talking about. When I tell these guys to be patient when your opportunity comes, it came today.”
Bryant scored a game-high 30 points, but he missed 22 of his 31 shots and shot an abysmal 3 for 18 in the second half, when the Wizards held the Lakers to just 10 field goals and 37 points. After the Lakers dropped to 2-7 on the road against Eastern Conference teams, losing their second consecutive game against one the conference’s dregs, Bryant admitted that he was “shocked” by the outcome.
The Lakers led 76-55 with 7 minutes 23 seconds left in the third quarter, but Booker (18 points, 17 rebounds) had a put-back dunk and a jump hook to spark a 32-7 run over the eight minutes.
But the Wizards really started rolling when John Wall sat in favor of Mack. Mack stole the ball from Lakers reserve Andrew Goudelock and Mason buried a three-pointer to bring the Wizards within 83-75. Booker later had a steal, batted the ball out ahead to Young, who gave it right back. Booker made the layup and got fouled on the play, hopping up and down to an approving audience.
Young hadn’t had an assist in four games since the all-star break, and only had 38 assists in his first 36 games but he was a capable distributor against his hometown Lakers.
“That’s what I got to do. Make my teammates better. I’m just a complete player, you know,” Young said with a laugh after the game. Young also helped use his length to harass Bryant. “I’m just doing the best I can. Just stay with him. Not going for his pump-fakes. You know I grew up watching him. I knew everybody back home was watching, I didn’t want to get embarrassed, you know. I went out there and gave it my all.”
Mason opened the fourth quarter with back-to-back three-pointers to put the Wizards ahead 87-83. But while the Lakers came back to take a 99-98 lead on a Andrew Bynum layup, the Wizards responded with two baskets by Seraphin and never trailed again. Wittman said the stout Seraphin was “made for” the Lakers, and didn’t put starter JaVale McGee in the for the final 15 minutes, as Seraphin refused to back down on defense and scored in a variety of ways on offense, hitting jump hooks, jumpers and dunks.
Wall had a relatively quiet night, scoring just four points but he had a game-high nine assists, including a pass to Seraphin from half court that Seraphin dunked to give the Wizards a 102-99 lead late in the game. Asked afterward if he thought the Lakers knew who he was, Seraphin smiled and said, “I don’t think so, no.”
They probably do now.