Every now and again during this tumultuous season, the Washington Wizards manage a complete game that includes both promise and professionalism.
Friday night’s 97-76 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers included plenty of both, with swingman Cartier Martin providing a lift off the bench and the rest of the reserves contributing significantly as well to end a five-game slide before 18,066 at Verizon Center.
In just his second game with Washington since being added from the NBA Development League, Martin matched a career high with 20 points on 8-for-12 shooting in 26 minutes, including 4 for 7 from three-point range, and had six rebounds. Guard Jordan Crawford scored 17 points, and Nene had 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists before leaving in the fourth quarter with a pulled left plantar fascia.
By that time, the Wizards had blunted a rally in which Philadelphia trimmed the lead to 13 with 9 minutes 42 seconds left in the game on a pair of foul shots by Thaddeus Young. Washington held the 76ers to 14 points in the fourth quarter to equal its fewest points allowed in a final period this season.
“Well, it’s finally nice to break through,” Wizards Coach Randy Wittman said. “Maybe this is a game we need to have that ice broken as we’ve talked the last two weeks or however long it’s been. Holding on, playing the right way down the stretch, defending. That was spectacular by our guys tonight.”
In matching their most lopsided margin of victory this season, the Wizards held an eighth consecutive opponent to fewer than 100 points. That’s the longest such streak for Washington since 2003.
So convincing was the triumph that Washington (12-39) went to the line a season-low six times yet never really was in danger thanks to defense and rebounding. The Wizards outrebounded Philadelphia, 52-38, and limited a team in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff chase to 37 percent shooting and just 30 field goals.
The Wizards’ commitment to fundamentals on this night included 26 assists, two short of tying the most for them this season, and making all their free throw attempts. They held a 48-30 advantage on points in the paint despite losing not just Nene but also starting forward Trevor Booker to the same injury in the first quarter.
Both players are listed as day-to-day, and Nene had a walking boot on his left foot in the locker room.
“It was great,” the starting center said of the win after disclosing he had dealt with the same injury when he was Denver. “The second group, they came in, they maintained the level of the game, and that’s the reason we won.”
With the Wizards ahead by 12 at the end of the first quarter, reserves such as Kevin Seraphin, Roger Mason Jr. and rookie Shelvin Mack were instrumental in expanding the margin. Mack had three assists over five minutes, including two that led to dunks by Seraphin and rookie Jan Vesely, and Mason’s consecutive three-pointers made it 35-19 less than four minutes into the second quarter.
Seraphin finished with 14 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two blocks, and Vesely collected a career-high 11 rebounds, the most of any player. In all, the Wizards got 47 points from their bench.
“Our bench played great,” said staring point guard John Wall, who had nine points, six assists, six rebounds and three blocks. “They did a great job, especially Kevin, Cartier, Mase. All those guys played great, even Jan. That’s what really helps us when we get leads.”
The Wizards have shown a confounding affinity for wilting when well ahead, but in this instance, they were able to close out the game with authority. It was a marked turnaround from such meltdowns as blowing a 21-point lead in a season-opening loss to New Jersey or losing to Indiana eight days ago despite holding a 22-point advantage.
The 76ers (28-23), who fell from the Atlantic Division lead for the first time since Dec. 28, certainly didn’t help themselves by missing 11 of 14 three-point attempts and combining for 29 points in the first and fourth quarters. Young and backup guard Lou Williams led Philadelphia each with 14 points, although neither made more than half his shots.
No Philadelphia starter other than Evan Turner (11 points), selected No. 2 overall behind Wall in the 2010 NBA draft, reached double figures, and the 76ers were two shy of their fewest points in a game this season.
“This was a big win for us,” Crawford said. “It was a team effort, and we played hard until the final whistle.”