By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 24, 2010; 1:10 AM
The Washington Wizards and Philadelphia 76ers don't know how to let a game end without some sort of head-scratching, no-that-didn't-just-happen drama. Leads are valued like pocket lint. They play helter-skelter, forcing people with heart troubles to look away. And the excitement - or bewilderment - doesn't stop until the buzzer sounds.
For the second time this season, the two inexperienced but talented teams engaged in an overtime battle that perhaps never should've been. And once again, the Wizards escaped with an improbable victory, simply because more wacky plays worked out in their favor. The last fortunate bounce came when Nick Young buried a decisive three-pointer from the right corner with 7.6 seconds remaining in the extra session and the Wizards prevailed, 116-114, at Verizon Center.
"It was a crazy game," Kirk Hinrich said after the Wizards (5-8) improved to 5-2 at home. "We probably didn't deserve to win, but we'll definitely take it."
Making his return after missing the past four games with a sprained left foot, John Wall came off the bench for the first time in his career and scored all of his game-high 25 points after halftime, forcing overtime by making three free throws to tie the score with 3.5 seconds to play. JaVale McGee had his best performance of the season, as he grabbed a career-high 18 rebounds, scored a season-high 24 points and blocked four shots. Young had 19 points, Andray Blatche had 17 points and 12 rebounds and Gilbert Arenas had 17 points as the Wizards recorded their second overtime victory this season over the 76ers.
In their last meeting, the Wizards benefited from a leaning three-pointer by Cartier Martin that forced overtime. On Tuesday night, they were able to rally back from a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit with the help of a silly flagrant foul by Philadelphia forward Elton Brand on McGee; Trevor Booker forcing Andres Nocioni into a jump ball in the closing seconds; two missed free throws by the 76ers' No. 2 overall pick, Evan Turner; and a heady play by Wall near the end of regulation.
With the Wizards trailing 106-103, Wall dribbled up court and noticed that Jrue Holiday was preparing to foul him. Once Holiday extended his hand, Wall shot the ball from nearly 40 feet away and went on to make three free throws.
"He made a vet move. Heard a whistle, threw it up, got three shots and showed big ones to go up there and make all three in that type of situation," Coach Flip Saunders said. "John gave us a big lift, made plays. I think the one thing he does bring, he brings character of never quitting when you're on the court."
Wall's clutch shooting helped spare Young from an ignominious end to his evening, since he shot an air-ball three-pointer on the previous possession that appeared to end hopes for the Wizards. But with Washington trailing by one point with less than 15 seconds to go in overtime, Arenas waited for Young to sprint along the baseline and found him in the right corner. "I seen Nick come off so naked by himself, I had to pass it to him," Arenas said.
Young buried the jumper and screamed. After the game, he gleefully slapped hands with fans as he headed to the locker room. "My first game-winner. It feels great right now," he said. "I'm glad I got a second chance. Gil had faith in me. My coach had faith in me, and I'm happy I knocked it down."
The game turned with 3 minutes 32 seconds remaining when McGee took a pass from Wall and elevated for a dunk. Brand (19 points), realizing that he had no chance to contest the shot, ran over and deliberately shoved McGee with two hands. McGee was dislodged by a few feet but still managed to throw down the dunk before taking a hard landing on his backside.
After rolling around and grimacing on the floor for a while, McGee finally rose to his feet, and the fans cheered. The response was more relief because McGee was okay, but it was also celebrating a performance that could signal his arrival as a reliable big man in this league. He has grabbed at least 10 rebounds in the past four games, including a previous season high of 16 against Detroit on Sunday.
"Ever since JaVale was put on the all-star ballot, he's played like an all-star," Saunders said.
McGee admitted that his "butt was hurting a little bit" after the foul, but he showed a sense of humor as he mockingly waved good-bye to Brand as he was ejected. "He fouled me hard, you have to go," he said.
The game continued to get testy. Late in the fourth quarter, Turner drove to the basket and Wall gave him a nudge from behind, resulting in Turner landing awkwardly. Philadelphia reserve center Marreese Speights confronted Wall and both received technical fouls. Turner said something to Wall, but Wall walked up to him and settled tensions as he slapped his hand. Wall then showed the separation between the top two picks in the draft by making his free throws and settled the score with a win, with some assistance from Young.
"It's a big rivalry," Wall said. "Jrue Holiday said they should've won the last game, they let it get away. That kind of sparked us, too, to kind of show them that wasn't a fluke."