LOS ANGELES — Just as the Washington Wizards are slowly accepting their fate as a lottery-bound team, Jeff Green had to lean in to his viral moment.
In the closing seconds of the first quarter, Lakers guard Lance Stephenson, known for his desire in making the flashy play over the fundamental one, received a high screen and Green switched over to take the one-on-one challenge. Stephenson hit Green with a jab step, followed by a series of crossover moves, when suddenly the 6-foot-9, 235-pound Green lost his footing and comically stumbled backward.
Even before Stephenson took the midrange jumper, the entire Lakers bench leaped to their feet in giddy anticipation. Then, as the shot swished through, some players on the sideline spilled onto the court while one teammate feigned a faint.
Rob Perez, a staple in Basketball Twitter, described Green as doing “the cha-cha.” The NBA on TNT account typed in all caps how 'LANCE REALLY MADE ‘EM DANCE!’ Even Lakers guard Rajon Rondo joked about turning into an orthopedic specialist on Green’s behalf.
“I kind of said something to him at halftime, I checked his ankles,” Rondo said. “Making sure he was okay. He was fine.”
The only problem? Stephenson lost Green by stepping on his dance partner’s shoe.
Green did not trip due to being crossed over. When Stephenson made his final move in dribbling the ball between his legs, his right foot stepped onto Green’s left. Green saw the Lakers’ bench reaction and heard the roar of the Staples Center crowd. However, following the game, Green probably got a better sense of the play’s impact after checking Twitter. The word ‘Lance’ trended for most of the night. So, when asked about the play, Green smiled and played along.
“I can confirm that he did step on my foot,” Green said. “But you know, run with it. I don’t care. He ‘crossed me.’ If that makes everybody happy.”
Save Green’s good-hearted response, the Wizards (30-45) had little to smile about after the loss.
Bradley Beal, who scored a game-high 32 points in the nationally televised game, had little scoring help from the rest of the starters although Tomas Satoransky matched a season high with 11 assists. Beal scored 17 of the team’s 27 points in the third quarter. By the time he returned to the sideline with 1:29 remaining in the quarter, Beal had 28 points while no other Wizards player had reached double figures yet.
“Our starters struggled,” Coach Scott Brooks said. “We struggled as a group making threes. Brad had a hot hand. We weren’t good enough tonight. Bottom line, we weren’t good enough tonight.”
With seven games remaining until the Wizards start preparing for a long offseason, Beal has a simple request.
“Win. It’ll be great to just win,” Beal said, when asked what he’d like to see from the Wizards before the end of the year. “At the end of the day, I mean, we play hard. I don’t believe in moral victories but we’ve got to get some of these wins. Even if they don’t mean anything. We’ve got to win some games.”