As Jordan Crawford and Trevor Booker got dressed in the locker room after the Wizards lost their seventh straight game to open the season, the two started discussing an altercation during the Oklahoma City-Memphis game in which burly big men Zach Randolph and Kendrick Perkins came close to throwing blows.
“I got Perk in that one,” Booker said.
“I got Zach,” Crawford said. “I got Zach against anybody in the league.”
“Anybody?” Booker asked.
“Anybody,” Crawford said.
Booker stared at Crawford and shook his head.
“Anybody but you, Book,” Crawford said.
“Too late now, I see how it is,” Booker said.
The Wizards didn’t have any kind of fracas against the Dallas Mavericks, but Crawford wouldn’t have any problem picking two players that he’d like to go into battle with after a 107-101 loss at American Airlines Center. Cartier Martin and Kevin Seraphin were at the front of the line in defeat.
In a game that the Wizards trailed by 22 points in the second half and 18 with 11 minutes remaining, Martin and Seraphin combined for 28 fourth-quarter points – including the team’s final 26 – to put the team in position to pull out an improbable upset. The Wizards got within three points with seven minutes left, with Crawford, Martin and Seraphin turning garbage time into a time to make the Mavericks sweat.
“You can’t let guys get hot in this league,” Mavericks forward Elton Brand said. “The two guys off the bench, Crawford and Seraphin, came in and got hot. They knocked down some big shots and made it a game.”
Brand left out Martin, but he has been used to getting overlooked this season. Three times in the first six games, Martin received the dreaded, DNP-Coach’s Decision, and he appeared for 24 seconds in another.
“As a player, you always want to play. You always feel you can do something on the floor. You just have to be ready,” Martin said after scoring a season-high 14 points. “That’s the tough part about being in the NBA. You have to be professional and be ready whenever your time is called.”
When he entered the game with 10 minutes, 17 seconds left in the fourth quarter the Wizards trailed 88-72. They outscored the Mavericks, 29-16, with Martin on the floor.
The game turned the instant he replaced Martell Webster, as Crawford buried a three-pointer. Then, after two Seraphin jumpers to get the Wizards within nine, Martin hit a three-pointer brought them within 88-82. Martin rebounded a missed jumper by Dallas point guard Darren Collison, gave the ball to Crawford, then confidently called for it back as headed down the court in transition.
“I wanted it, man. I wanted it,” Martin said with a laugh.
Crawford found him and Martin buried another three-pointer and Mavericks Coach Rick Carlisle called timeout. Bradley Beal, who had a rough night on both ends of the floor, was among the first to run up to Martin and give him a chest bump.
“Individually, I was upset with myself. Things weren’t going my way, I guess, on both ends of the court,” said Beal, who scored eight points on just 3 of 14 shooting. “But it’s basketball. My teammates picked me up. Especially Cartier. Kevin. Jordan as well.”
Martin was 4 for 4 from beyond the three-point line and added a fastbreak layup when Crawford stole the ball from Chris Kaman and found Martin cutting ahead for a layup.
“It’s big. Showed he was ready,” Crawford said. “Showed he wanted to play and he’s been working in practice. He was out there, fighting for position.”
After two huge outings against Boston, Seraphin was shut down in his next three games, scoring a combined 11 points against Milwaukee, Indiana and Charlotte. Seraphin was partly responsible, with some poor shooting performances, but he also was turned into an afterthought as his teammates neglected the post to shoot three-pointers.
Coach Randy Wittman demanded his players to look inside and not settle. The Wizards still shot 27 three-pointers, but they made 13, which attributed to having a low post presence in Seraphin.
“I thought the big key was getting the ball to Kevin. He gave us a big lift down there,” Wittman said. “Again, we’ve got to throw the ball inside first. And sometimes, we don’t ever look to explore that.”
Seraphin made sure they did. He connected on a driving jumper and jump hook to bring the Wizards within 101-98 with two minutes remaining. He finished with 16 points on 8 for 10 shooting.
“Took my confidence back, first because I’ve been absent for a few games,” Seraphin said. “I just keep my mind in the game, start to be focused. To be good on defense and all the confidence come back.”
Crawford played a team-best 34 minutes after not getting more than 22 in his previous four games as he played through a sore left ankle. He led the team with 21 points and added a game-high seven assists after being forced to fill in for A.J. Price, who went down with a sprained ankle in the third quarter.
“It was an opportunity,” Crawford said. “Coach put me in the play. Definitely don’t want to see nobody go down but I’ve been struggling for minutes this year and I was just happy to get some.”
The Wizards are the league’s only winless team, but Crawford said he wouldn’t let it destroy his spirits.
“I’m never down on myself,” he said. “I don’t think nobody on the team is. I think everybody enjoying the opportunity that they’re getting, even though losing. It’s a hard time but I think that’s why we fight back from 22.”
But Martin added that the Wizards might want to take a different approach if they hope to start winning games. “We don’t want to start off down like that and have to fight back in,” he said.