Jordan Crawford tossed the ball skyward from near halfcourt and John Wall soared to catch it and dunked with two hands. Wall swung on the rim, let out a guttural scream and violently batted away the ball as the once-angry fans at Verizon Center suddenly started to applaud the Washington Wizards with equal vigor.
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant brought the team with the NBA’s best record to his home town, and the expectation was that it would be a pushover against the team with the league’s worst record. But Wall played with passion and flair; Nick Young overcame a horrid first-half slump to erupt when it counted; Andray Blatche overcame a hostile crowd that booed him in pregame introductions; and the Wizards used their most inspired team effort to pull off the biggest upset of the season.
Worst beat first, 105-102, but the downtrodden Wizards couldn’t rejoice until Durant missed a final desperation three-pointer and Trevor Booker corralled the rebound as time expired. The players exited the floor to a standing ovation.
“Nobody expected it, that’s what it was. David bested Goliath,” Young said after scoring 19 of his 24 points in the final 17 minutes to help the Wizards overcome a 10-point deficit and their own nerves.
Despite missing eight free throws in the fourth quarter, the Wizards (2-12) showed enough hustle and scrappiness to pull out the most unlikely victory and snap a four-game losing streak. Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook scored 36 points and Durant scored 33, but he also had seven turnovers as the Thunder dropped to 12-3.
“It's not the end of the world,” Durant said. “We lost to a more hungry team than us. It hurts. We want to win every game. Especially me, I want to win back at home. But we got to look past it.”
The Wizards are looking to build on a win that served as a testament of what they can accomplish when they play as a team, fight through some poor shooting, and catch an opponent sleepwalking. For just the second time this season, the Wizards outrebounded an opponent, 52-43, and they also forced the Thunder into 21 turnovers.
Wall had 25 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, providing several highlights with his precision passing and electrifying drives to the basket. His fourth-quarter alley-oop dunk tied the score at 76, and he gave the Wizards an 88-85 lead when he found JaVale McGee cutting to the basket for an emphatic slam. After getting criticized for his off-the-backboard alley-oop, McGee didn’t provide any extra theatrics.
“I’m just trying to keep it simple,” McGee said. “I don’t want nobody saying nothing about me in the media or I’m not professional or anything. Keeping it simple.”
With the Wizards holding a 96-92 lead with 40 seconds remaining, Wall slid in front of Durant to take a charge.
Crawford added 18 points off the bench and Blatche scored 12 points with 10 rebounds, despite getting off to a rough start. Coach Flip Saunders put Blatche back in the starting lineup for the first time in six games, replacing Booker, but fans weren’t initially pleased. Blatche was roundly booed when he got introduced and heard jeers nearly every time he touched the ball.
“From the time they called my time out. I tried to keep my head, to stay in the game,” said Blatche, who last remembered getting booed at home that resoundingly when he missed a breakaway dunk against Chicago last season. “The intro? I was like ‘aw man.’ But hey, we won. If they go do that every night and we win, I don’t care. We won, I’m happy, man.”
Obviously rattled at the start of the game, Blatche badly missed his first two shots, and was rushing to leave the court after getting called for a travel while trying to make a crossover dribble. But as he stormed to the bench, he later realized that he had to stay on the court because Booker was entering the game to replace McGee (seven points, 10 rebounds).
He was able to calm down some, and later in the period, Thunder center Kendrick Perkins appeared to hit Blatche in the face. Blatche countered with a hard foul, then got chest-to-chest with Perkins and refused to back down. “We weren’t going to be intimidated. We were physical. When you do those little things, it results in wins,” Saunders said.
Blatche stuck with it, but so did Young, who missed his first seven shots before finally making his first field goal of the game — a three-pointer — with 4 minutes 31 seconds left in the third period. Young finished with five three-pointers and also defended Durant late.
“Oh yeah. I hope y’all seen that,” Young said. “I try to bring something to the table every night. You see KD air-balled one time too, so I just want to let y’all know that. That was all me right there.”
Saunders said the whole team delivered a message on Wednesday. “I told them, ‘You set a bar.’ One of our guys said in there, ‘We’ve got no excuses.’ We know that if we play hard, play together as a team, that good things can happen.”