His coach was furious. Most of his teammates weren’t very amused. Nick Young praised him for having the bravery to even consider attempting such a play during a game. But JaVale McGee didn’t have any qualms about a third-quarter dunk during the Washington Wizards’ 114-106 loss to the Houston Rockets that revealed his incredible athletic gifts and also presented one of the many reasons why his team has been the most dysfunctional in the NBA this season.
With the Wizards trailing by six points, Trevor Booker dived to save a loose ball to John Wall, who threw it ahead to McGee, all alone on the break. As he approached the foul line, McGee tossed an alley-oop pass off the glass to himself, slammed the ball with two hands, then tapped his forehead to salute the crowd as he ran down the court.
(Jacquelyn Martin/AP) - Houston Rockets forward Luis Scola (4), of Argentina, guard Kyle Lowry (7), and center Samuel Dalembert (21), block Washington Wizards guard Nick Young (1), as he takes a shot during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game at the Verizon Center in Washington, on Monday, Jan. 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Coach Flip Saunders appeared agitated as he placed his hands on his waist and grimaced. Wizards assistant Randy Wittman looked up, put his hand on his head and rolled his eyes. And the Rockets responded by going on a 19-4 run that turned a close game into a laugher — and made a career-high scoring effort by Wall just another footnote for a 1-12 team that continues to build upon the worst start in franchise history.
“I told him that’s unacceptable,” Saunders said about McGee’s highlight dunk. “I mean, maybe I’m too old-school, but save that for the all-star game. Not during the game.”
Afterward, McGee didn’t understand why Saunders was so upset as he explained, “Apparently, if you get a fast break and throw it off the backboard in the third quarter, and you’re 1-11, you’re not supposed to do stuff like that. . . . I felt like I was trying to get the team hype and trying to make a good play. I felt like I did that and we went on a run from there. But I guess not.”
When asked if he regretted the play, McGee quickly replied, “No.”
Six minutes after the dunk, the Wizards trailed, 83-64, after experiencing a meltdown that included several defensive breakdowns and saw them record as many technical fouls as field goals: Wall and Andray Blatche, back after missing the past three games with a sore right shoulder, were both assessed technicals for complaining about calls and awarded the Rockets two free points that would come back to haunt them.
“We’re the most self-inflicted team in the league right now. It’s like the team that’s the most penalized team in football, that’s what I feel like we are,” said Maurice Evans, who made his second appearance of the season. “Once we clean those things up then we give ourselves chances.”
Wall helped the Wizards rally by scoring 18 of his career-high 38 points in the fourth quarter. He played with an aggression and fire that hasn’t been seen often this season and his teammates and the fans fed off his running jumpers, driving layups, fist pumps and hoots. Wall stole the ball from Kyle Lowry, was fouled and made two free throws to bring the Wizards within 101-96 with 5 minutes 31 seconds remaining. On the Wizards’ next possession, Wall expected Jordan Crawford to cut to the basket on a fast break, but Crawford slowed as as Rockets guard Kevin Martin (25 points) knocked away Wall’s errant pass, which led to a layup on the other end by Luis Scola (18 points).