Garrett Temple hasn’t been around long enough to know the routine with his new team — or how much he completely ruined what has become a season-long bad habit in the Wizards’ 105-97 win over the Orlando Magic on Friday night.
In his second game with his new team, Temple finished with 13 points — four short of his career high — six rebounds and six assists and helped the Wizards withstand a late run by taking care of the ball and locking down defensively.
“That’s what I came here to do, be a defender and help lead the team,” said Temple, who averaged 14.7 points, 5.8 assists and 4.9 rebounds for the Reno Bighorns of the NBA Development League this season after spending all of last season in Italy.
The Wizards often fall into a double-digit hole in the first quarter, rally back to make it close or even take the lead and then collapse in the fourth quarter. The traditional drill probably wasn’t in the playbook Temple received when he signed on Christmas. And the Wizards actually broke from the routine and had the opposite beginning in their loss to Cleveland on Wednesday in his debut.
But Temple got his first taste of the early-game malaise as Magic point guard Jameer Nelson “drank some hot juice” — as Temple called it — and opened the game making four three-pointers and scoring 14 points to give his team an early 25-8 lead. It was the 12th time this season that the Wizards trailed by 10 or more points in the first quarter.
Coach Randy Wittman called on Temple to enter the game and guard Nelson, and the usual comeback was underway.
Temple played the rest of the half alongside Jordan Crawford and had 11 points, four assists and a steal as the Wizards outscored the Magic, 46-26. He made all five of his field goal attempts, including a three-pointer that gave the Wizards a 52-51 lead that they never relinquished.
“He was confident. Confident players do some great things out there. Hopefully, he’ll keep it up,” Crawford said of Temple.
Wittman was so impressed with Temple that he started him over Shelvin Mack to start the third quarter. Temple helped expand the lead to eight when he stole the ball from Nelson and made a nifty left-handed reverse layup in traffic. Temple also proved he wasn’t shy against Cleveland when he responded to a Kyrie Irving three-pointer by taking the ball the length of the court for a dunk, and later took a potential tying three-pointer in the final minute.
“That’s the one good thing about the D-League: You still have the confidence in your offensive game,” said Temple, who has also played in San Antonio, Milwaukee and Charlotte. “The three-point line is the same distance, the goal is still 10 feet. If you just play with confidence, take shots when you’re open. Let the game come to you, that’s the main thing.”
The Magic chopped down a 15-point second-half deficit to four points early in the fourth quarter, and the Wizards appeared headed for another disappointing breakdown. But Temple helped limit Nelson and was also assigned to defend Arron Afflalo and J.J. Redick.
After his initial barrage, Nelson had two points the rest of the game.
“Garrett was huge,” Wittman said. “I think I had him on three people at one time. A guy got hot, I had the tendency to say, ‘Go guard him.’ Defensively, I thought he was a key for us.”
After watching the Wizards fold against Cleveland, Temple didn’t want to see a repeat against Orlando.
“You have to persevere and keep playing hard,” Temple said. “We made winning plays. Last game, coach told us that we have to make winning plays. We wanted to do that this game.”