Eventually, the party got sloppy, the players stumbled to the ground and Crawford found himself buried in a heap of head slaps and hugs. Martell Webster wouldn’t let go of Crawford and kicked his feet wildly in the air.
Clumsy celebrations should kind of be expected for a Wizards team that has been unaccustomed to winning much this season, let alone in the fashion that they did on Monday night at the Rose Garden, where Crawford spared them from another collapse, or another potential overtime defeat with a shot that rained down from the heavens.
“I always say, the basketball gods usually even things out, and we’ve been on the other end so many times this year,” Coach Randy Wittman said after the Wizards improved are 3-6 in games decided by three points or less. “Our guys are just sticking with it and learning and staying with it and making plays down the stretch when we need to make a play to win the game.”
The Wizards (9-30) also showed that they can compete — and win — even when their best player, Wall, and their promising rookie, Bradley Beal, were far from their best. And after Nene, Webster and Emeka Okafor put the Wizards in position to win, Crawford closed out the game by scoring all 13 of his points in the final period — none bigger than a three-pointer over Portland’s Wes Matthews that few besides Crawford would’ve had the confidence to take.
“I wanted to get a clean look,” said Crawford. “I knew it had a chance. Thank the Lord I made it.”
The Wizards swept the season series against Portland for the first time since 2004-05 and improved to 2-2 on this five-game road trip. Webster and Nene both had season highs with 24 points and Okafor had his eighth double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Wall finally came down some from his adrenaline-fueled return to action, contributing just six points and committing four turnovers in a sloppy performance that he managed to avoid his first five games. Beal appeared to struggle in his second game since injuring his right wrist after a hard fall, matching his season low with just two points on 1-for-7 shooting.
“We know who our leaders are, but different guys can step up any other night,” Wall said. “A lot of guys chipped in. Jordan came in . . . that’s what you live for — somebody to come in and make a big shot.”
Despite Wall and Beal struggling, the Wizards were tied at 95 after Matthews drained a three-pointer with 7.9 seconds remaining. Webster made the inbounds pass, barely avoiding a five-second violation when he spotted Crawford sneaking behind Nene to break free. Crawford has been known to take questionable shots in his time in Washington, but his teammates were confident that he would make the one that counted most.