PORTLAND — Nick Young was whirling, fading, off-balance and probably had no business pulling up for a three-pointer during a critical late-game possession for the Washington Wizards. The Portland Trail Blazers were trying to stage one final rally, but Young wasn’t prepared to give any quarter.
And after drilling yet another cold-blooded shot from long distance, Young formed his hands as if he were preparing to launch an arrow from a bow, fired away, and no one inside Rose Garden could question him. Whether he was shooting or engaging in some pseudo- archery, Young was on target as he led the Wizards to a stunning 124-109 victory over Portland.
“That was a tough shot. But I felt good, and those are the kind of shots I shoot,” Young said after scoring a season-high 35 points and matching his career-high with seven three-pointers — on just eight attempts — including a game-clinching triple with less than two minutes remaining. “And I was feeling it. Feeling it.”
Young wasn’t the only Wizard on a roll offensively Tuesday night, as John Wall again directed a solid floor game with 29 points and nine assists. Jordan Crawford came off the bench, looking to shake off a season-long slump and scored 21 points with a flurry of difficult long jumpers, and JaVale McGee recorded his third consecutive double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
“It felt like everything was working for everybody,” McGee said.
The Wizards (7-22) set new season-highs in points and field goal percentage (60 percent) and improved to 2-0 on this five-game road trip. After recording their most lopsided victory of the season with a 21-point trouncing two nights before in Detroit, the Wizards became the first team in franchise history to win consecutive road games by at least 15 points.
“That’s as complete a game as we’ve played all year,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “I thought our guys were in tune. We told them this is a tough place to play.”
But the Wizards had to have a hint that things might work out in their favor when Trail Blazers all-star forward LaMarcus Aldridge limped off the court in the first two minutes with a sprained left ankle after making a jumper and landing on Trevor Booker’s foot. As the night played out, there were several other welcome sights — most notably some fortitude from the Wizards, who displayed more poise than they have all season, unwilling to give in to an excitable sellout crowd or the Trail Blazers (15-14), who kept chugging along without Aldridge.
The Wizards built a 12-point lead at halftime and each time Portland tried to make a run, the Wizards responded, never letting their opponent get closer than seven points in the second half.
“We haven’t been able to do that in the past,” Wittman said. “We’ve kind of played scared a little bit when that happened, but we’re not now. You’ve got first- and second-year guys that now understand you have to continue to attack and not worry about what the other team is doing so much.”
After Gerald Wallace (25 points) made a reverse layup to again bring Portland within eight, Wall drove up the floor for a quick rebuttal but was a tad out of control and nearly lost possession. Wall, Lewis and Jan Vesely all hit the deck, scrambling for the ball until the Wizards eventually regained possession and Crawford found Young wide open at the top of the key. Young drilled the three-pointer, and pumped his fist after falling to the ground. Wall later gave the Wizards a 91-82 lead at the end of the third quarter as he darted down the floor for a layup that silenced the crowd.
Portland trimmed the Wizards’ 17-point second-half lead 108-99 when Nicolas Batum (33 points) hit a three-pointer with 5 minutes 21 seconds remaining, but the Wizards scored the next six points, getting a running bank shot from Wall, a hard-fought tip-in from McGee and a long pull-up jumper from Crawford that drew boos from the home crowd.
“We believed,” Crawford said. “Tonight, we really believed we could win. We didn’t get down on ourselves when they started making shots. That’s why we got the win. Shows that we can definitely compete with everybody. We just have to do it every night. That’s the beautiful thing about the league, the good teams do it every single night. They not satisfied.”
In the past, the Wizards haven’t responded well when their opponents’ best player doesn’t play, or goes down with an injury during a game. But they refused to let their guard down against Portland, finally taking advantage of a weakened foe.
The Wizards earned their first road victory over a team with a winning record since downing Boston on April 4, 2010, and snapped a six-game losing streak in Portland, dating back to March 28, 2005 — which includes a 35-point beatdown last season.
“It’s tough when they lose their all-star player, but they’re still a great team and we wanted to do a great job executing,” Wall said. “Playing in Portland is a very tough place. Last year, we came in and got blew out early. The way we’re playing right now, playing as a team, playing hard, and rebounding, we give ourselves a chance. That’s all we can ask for.”
“It’s a big step forward,” Young said. “I feel like we’re turning into a good team. We just have to keep learning from it, can’t go backwards.”