Nick Young strutted from the shower in the visitor’s locker room at Rose Garden, feeling good and in a hurry to get back to his home town of Los Angeles. It was Valentine’s Day, he had some plans and didn’t want any delays.
“It’s that West Coast atmosphere,” Young said with a grin, waving his right hand near his face as if he were taking in some aroma. “That whole atmosphere.”
Whatever it was – the atmosphere, being in the Pacific time zone, having all-star LaMarcus Aldridge go down with an ankle injury in the first two minutes – the Wizards will be hard-pressed to duplicate the performance they had on Tuesday in Portland, where Young, Jordan Crawford and John Wall auditioned for the formation of a new Big Three, as they combined to score 85 points and shoot 31 for 47 (66 percent) from the field.
“They’re capable,” Wizards Coach Randy Wittman said. “Especially Jordan Crawford and Nick are capable shooters if it’s the right shot. I thought that was one thing we did well. We didn’t really force a lot of things over the top of people – we moved it. John penetrated, collapsed the defense and kicked out. Nick can get red hot, and J.C., he can get hot. Both of those guys are two guys that can really shoot it.”
Crawford developed a reputation as a streaky and potentially explosive scorer in his last two months with the Wizards last season, but with an inconsistent role and even more sporadic minutes, he has been in a severe shooting slump through his sophomore campaign. In the previous three games, Crawford shot just 6 of 34 (17.6 percent) – and even took to Twitter two nights before to lament his struggles after going 2 for 12 in front of his family and friends in the Wizards’ win over Detroit.
He scored 21 points, made 9 of his 16 field attempts and shot better than 50 percent in a game for just the fifth time this season. He also had his first game with at least 20 points in 26 games. As he emerged from the shower, Mason shouted, “I see you young fella.”
Crawford shook his head and said, “I was in my hotel room thinking I couldn’t hoop no more.”
But those doubts were put to rest, for one night at least, as Crawford attributed his success to the presence of another Crawford – Portland reserve and former sixth man of the year Jamal – whom he dueled in practice last season with the Atlanta Hawks, for helping him break loose. With Crawford guarding him early in the first quarter, Jordan Crawford found a rhythm and stayed in a groove for the rest of the night.
Wall scored at least 29 points for the third time in five games and benefited from having Young and Crawford on the floor and giving him ample space to operate. He penetrated into the lane with relative ease, and didn’t have to absorb much punishment inside as he also had his pull-up jumper and running floater working. Though he was rolling offensively and taking shots with confidence, Wall was still able to hand out nine assists. Six of those passes were to Young for open three-pointers.
“Nick was making a lot of shots, so that really helped,” Wall said, adding that the Wizards are tough to guard when their three backcourt players get going. “You got three guards that can put it on the floor. I’m just trying to develop my mid-range jump shot and my floater and I feel when I’m making those shots, it’s very tough for a defender to guard me, because I can really pick and choose what I want. And then you’ve got those two guys, they make tough shots. That’s what they’re known for. I like to get easier ones.”
But Wall perhaps offered a sign that the Wizards – and their three-guard offense – were going to have a big night when he buried a three-pointer from the left corner, right in front of his team’s bench in the first quarter.
“Most of the threes I take be last second shots, or hesitation shots,” said Wall, who had missed 15 of his first 16 three-point attempts this season. “I just felt comfortable. I know most of the times, defenders are backing up off me. Just keep putting in hard work. I know I miss some some games, but my coaching staff and teammates, they tell me to keep working on it. So I got to keep taking them.”
Young has scored at least 20 points in six of his past eight games, averaging 21.8 points over that stretch. But he actually became a trending topic on Twitter as he scored 15 points and made three fearless three-pointers in the third quarter. After he made a series of threes, Young acted as if he were shooting an arrow from a bow, a new signature move that he credited to JaVale McGee.
“JaVale told me I should add some flavor to my threes, we was coming up with something. We worked together and came up with the idea,” Young said. Of course, he needed to make some shots so that he wouldn’t look foolish. Fortunately, as Young said, “It was one of those nights.”
After Young got done dressing, he was urging his teammates to get a move on. He saw Kevin Seraphin punching buttons on his iPhone and said, “Kevin, you can text on the bus. You can text on the bus!”
He later said, “I’m trying to get everybody to take quick showers and all that, we got to get on the bus and get on the road. It’s Valentine’s Day. I got my little, you know…I got to get back to L.A. I got my moms some roses and everything.”