By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 12, 2011; 6:09 AM
Nick Young watched Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins's errant three-pointer bounce off the rim, then off the top of the backboard, guaranteeing that the Washington Wizards would - despite their best intentions otherwise - survive an unnecessarily exhausting, roller coaster game against one of the worst teams in the NBA. Afterward, Young ripped off his jersey, placed it on center court, and bowed to the crowd.
Young was in a celebratory mood, walking out of Verizon Center with the game ball after he scored a career-high 43 points, but the feeling amongst most of his teammates was simply relief, as they escaped with a 136-133 overtime victory that proved to be more difficult than it should've been.
"I'm just happy we got this victory," Young said, adding that if the Wizards had lost, "That would've been a rain on my parade."
The Wizards simply couldn't handle prosperity on Tuesday night - whether they were up 20 points in the first quarter, 16 in the third quarter, eight with 40 seconds left in regulation or even five with 26 seconds remaining in overtime. And the victory didn't come without a cost, as Andray Blatche was forced to leave the game late, and could miss time after suffering a sprained right shoulder while wrestling for a rebound.
"In 15 years and I've never seen anything like that in my life," Coach Flip Saunders said of the exciting adventures of his last-place team. "From an entertainment standpoint, it was probably entertaining. The consolation prize is we won."
John Wall was unable to finish the game after developing leg cramps, but he scored 22 points and went 10 for 10 from the foul line. He seemingly put the finishing touches on the game, when he shook Kings guard Beno Udrih (26 points) with a dribble juke, then knocked down a jumper to give the Wizards a 117-109 lead with 1:10 remaining.
"That's when you think the game is over," Wall said.
But before the Wizards could get too excited, Blatche battled for a rebound with Kings reserve guard Jermaine Taylor. Taylor was on the ground and flung him around like a blanket and injured Blatche's right shoulder. As head athletic trainer Eric Waters checked with Blatche, Blatche told him, "I heard a pop."
Blatche returned to participate in the jump ball, and won the tip, but he immediately grabbed his shoulder and later exited toward the locker room with Waters trailing. With Blatche gone, the Wizards continued to unravel, allowing the Kings several opportunities to steal the victory - even after Cousins missed two free throws in the final seconds. "That was terrible," Blatche said after scoring 16 points with 13 rebounds. "We make it hard on ourselves. We make it harder than it has to be."
Taylor made a layup, then Rashard Lewis (16 points, 10 rebounds) rushed his inbounds pass to Kirk Hinrich, throwing it behind him, and Francisco Garcia stole the ball and Al Thornton fouled him as he made a layup with 11 seconds remaining. Garcia brought the Kings within one point, and Young made just one of two free throws.
Holding a 126-124 lead, the Wizards needed a stop, but Kings reserve Pooh Jeter blew right past Wall as if he wasn't there and tied the score with a layup.
"I really thought the help was going to be there, but it still was a terrible job of me defending," Wall said, believing that the game probably should've ended before that play. "The game could've been over 30 minutes or an hour ago."
Hinrich scored six of his 14 points in overtime, giving the Wizards a 135-130 lead with 26 seconds remaining, but they found a way to sweat out the finish as Cartier Martin fouled Garcia (26 points) on a three-pointer, forcing Saunders to throw a cup to the ground. Garcia made all three free throws, then Jeter forced another turnover when he knocked the ball off Hinrich's knee.
Hinrich made up for the mistake as he batted away Udrih's pass for Cousins, forcing a turnover. Al Thornton got fouled, but only made one of two free throws, setting the missed three-pointer by Cousins.
"Never, ever, ever. I don't think I've ever seen a game like that, or been a part of a game like that," said Lewis, who is in 13th season in the league. "But we got the win, that's what counts. Regardless of how we won, we got the win."
Wall was looking forward to his first career meeting against Cousins, his friend and college roommate from Kentucky, but that story line quickly took a back seat to Young's scoring outburst. Young surpassed his previous career-high of 33 points before the end of the third period. The shooting performance was probably more special since Young was limited to just three points when the Wizards lost in Sacramento, 116-91, on Dec. 8.
Young rebounded from scoring seven points the previous game in Charlotte by outscoring the Kings 13-10 in the first seven minutes. He then erupted for 18 consecutive points in the second half, helping the Wizards take a 96-83 lead with a short runner. "I played with a lot of confidence tonight. The rim felt like a hula hoop, once I kept making. I was in that zone," he said.
And fortunately, the Wizards let him walk away with a win.