The two dunks that got the loudest cheers during the Wizards’ 101-94 win over the defending champion Miami Heat on Wednesday from fans at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., were impressive for their sheer force, but Martell Webster’s two-handed alley-oop dunk and Chris Singleton’s driving slam were more than just highlight worthy.
Webster viewed his dunk as hallelujah worthy, considering his arduous road to good health after several setbacks in recent years. Singleton’s jam, which forced Heat forward Chris Bosh to get out of his way, was Incredible Hulk worthy, since it showed what he looks like when he gets mad – and that his right shoulder is probably feeling a little better.
Webster and Singleton both came off the bench and helped turn around a game that started out as if it was going to be a Heat beatdown, with Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Bosh toying with them through a relatively easy first half. It ended with Coach Randy Wittman urging a better effort at halftime and Shelvin Mack, Bradley Beal and Brian Cook making clutch baskets against Miami’s fringe players.
“Wins always feel great, but that’s not the most important thing in the preseason. In the regular season, it’s all about that win. In preseason, it’s about getting carryover,” Webster said after matching Wade with a game-high 23 points. “In the first half, we all played bad. We all could’ve been a little more aggressive. We came in here [at halftime], coach let us have it. Which is a good thing. Preseason is when it all should come out. No cards back and we went out and did the little things.”
Webster scored inside and out with hard-charging drives and shots from long distance. Singleton had a preseason-high 17 poiints, with eight coming after a heated exchange with Wade that required A.J. Price to intervene and shove Singleton back with both hands for several feet.
“We were both into the game. That’s how it is and we kind of let our emotions get the best of us,” Singleton said of his interaction with Wade.
Wade guarded Singleton at the top of the key about a minute later and Singleton blew right by him for a dunk – the kind of aggressive, hard-charging drive that he rarely took last season, or even this preseason as he recovers from a sore shoulder.
“Playing freely. I wasn’t even worried about it,” Singleton said of his shoulder. “I just felt like he gave me a straight path to the goal, so I just used my athletic ability and dunked the ball. I didn’t know it was that nasty until they were telling me about it on the bench.”
When Webster entered the game in the first quarter, the Wizards (3-4) were down by 10 points. About 10 minutes later, Webster had scored eight points and the Wizards were only down two after he had back-to-back dunks.
Since training camp began, Wizards players have had arguments about which player is most athletic and John Wall doubted Webster since he hadn’t seen him dunk. Webster had three dunk in the first half against Miami, including catching a lob from Jannero Pargo, jamming with two hands and swinging on the rim. On the next possession, Jordan Crawford threw a beautiful left-handed pass to Webster for another jam.
“If I could cry I would,” Webster said, then leaned over and mocked a tearful breakdown. “No, I’m playing – but honestly, if I could cry, I would. Because I’ve been through a lot. It’s been plenty of times where I’ve been like, maybe this isn’t it. I had a great chance. I made great money and I played the game the right way, maybe it’s time to stop, just for my health.”
Webster has had a left foot injury and two back procedures in the past three years, leading him to doubt his ability to come back. He worked out in Florida and Seattle this summer, did some Pilates, and improved his flexibility. The results have been apparent with him leading the team in scoring at 13 points per game during the preseason.
“That’s what he’s been – consistent,” Wittman said of Webster. “He’s giving us that production. He’s been very aggressive, taking really good shots, doing the right things.”
Wittman doesn’t take the preseason lightly as he picked up a technical foul for arguing for a foul when he thought Pargo got hit on a shot. He stayed on the officials most of the night. When a Heat player knocked a pass out of bounds with his foot, Wittman shouted for a kicked ball when a referee informed him that it was inadvertent. Later in the game, Cook’s leg deflected a pass and went out of bounds, but when he was called for a kicked ball, Wittman shouted, “Hey, it was inadvertent!”
Back in his home state of Missouri, Bradley Beal failed to score in double figures for the first time this preseason and Wade wasted little time going directly at the rookie.
Beal, a native of St. Louis, picked up two fouls in his first five minutes on the floor and failed to score in just seven minutes in the first half. Looking a slight step slower after spraining his right ankle on Monday, Beal absorbed an incredibly hard foul in the third period, landing hard on his back and appeared to be done for the night when he left early in the third quarter.
Wittman put Beal back in the game for the final 4 minutes, 28 seconds and Beal hit a huge three-pointer that gave the Wizards a five-point lead with about two minutes remaining. Beal closed the scoring with a dunk that allowed him to finish with nine points and excited his friends and family seated in the stands.
“Toward the end of the game, we were having fun,” Beal said. “Having that love and passion for the game. It’s a reason why they have the title that they have. They’re trying to compete and we’re competing at the same time, but we can’t give in. Last year is last year. We have to show them we’re able to compete with them as well.”
All three point guards played well, with Mack, Pargo and A.J. Price combining for 26 points and11 assists.
“Great win,” Crawford said after the game. “Even though we was getting some tough calls, stuck through it. Kept playing. Shel came after not playing the whole game, hit two big shots. The rook stayed with it, hit a big three, so it was good to see.”