By Dave Johnson
A week after being named NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for December, Bradley Beal burst into January and came through with his first game-winner at home against Oklahoma City. It is Number three on our list of top 10 Wizards games from the 2012/2013 season.
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The list so far:
Audio montage of Wizards win over the Thunder:
My game recap from that night:
Against all odds the Washington Wizards found a way to deliver another January surprise against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Bradley Beal’s jumper from the top of the key with .3 seconds left secured a 101-99 win over the Thunder that triggered memories of a win almost a year ago.
The final score was similar to the Wizards 105-102 home win over the Thunder on January 18, 2012, but that’s where the similarity ends. Last year the Wizards were at full strength and led in scoring by John Wall with 25 points. On Monday night the Wizards only dressed nine players and still defeated the NBA’s second highest scoring team.
Nene (right knee tendinitis), Jordan Crawford (sore left ankle), and Cartier Martin (hyper extended knee), were all forced to the sideline. The Wizards did welcome A.J. Price and Trevor Ariza back to the lineup. Price had missed the last 15 games with fractured right hand and Ariza had missed 17 games with a strained right calf.
On paper it didn't make sense then that the Wizards, last in the NBA in offense and without leading scorers Crawford and Nene, would be able to keep up with the Thunder’s ability to score. On the season the Thunder averages over 105 points per game and is first in the NBA in point differential at 8.9.
“Well, first off, win or lose, I couldn't have been more proud of the guys. After how the game ended last night in Miami, and flying back, I was really proud. I told the guys before we took the floor that the nine we put out there were going to play hard. I knew that. I knew those nine were going to go out and give everything they had.”
This Wizards team is nothing if not resilient. After losing Friday in double-overtime to Brooklyn and then failing to score in the final seven minutes of a loss Sunday in Miami, the Wizards were back at it on Monday with enough resolve and commitment to compete with Thunder.
On Wednesday Bradley Beal was revealed as December’s NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month and now he is making a strong case for winning the award in January. On Friday Beal scored a career high 24 points, including the three-pointer that forced a second overtime against the Nets, and then last night against the Thunder had 22 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists
Wittman on Beal:
“He’s probably our best one-on-one guy to create an opportunity. We knew they were doing some switching with their bigs late. We wanted to try to get Perkins matched up on Beal at the end. I think it’ll go a long way. He’s starting to consistently give you good performances, consistently. Even last night, he went 4-14, they were really good, quality shots. He’s playing the right way and staying aggressive; he just had an off shooting night. I’ve seen him stay level instead of going through a roller-coaster that you’d expect a 19-year-old to go through.”
From midway through the third quarter to midway through the fourth quarter the Thunder missed 17 consecutive field goals. On the season the Thunder is now second in field goal percentage at 48 percent after being limited to 43 percent shooting from the field in the loss to the Wizards. Garrett Temple’s defensive work helped subdue Russell Westbrook, who had 17 points on 4 of 17 shooting from the field.
Ariza and Price were active in their first game in about a month. Ariza’s stat line of 3 points and 3 rebounds doesn't jump off the page, but he was active on defense and probably led the team in deflections. In 16 minutes played Price had 4 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds, and only one turnover.
“The moral of tonight’s story was just buying into the system, defensively and offensively we did that. We executed our defensive plans. Even though they got shots, those were things we were going to live with. Defensively, we went out and laid it on the line. Wore our heart on our sleeves and we came out and we executed in the last two minutes with clock management. Garrett (Temple), A.J. (Price), Brad (Beal) did a wonderful job of that. We got that win. That’s the only thing that matters.”
Thunder head coach Scott Brooks on the Wizards: “
I know how Randy feels," Brooks said. "It's not easy, because you don't see a lot of sunshine. But, they have good players that work hard, and eventually it turns around.”
Four years ago the Thunder had a 3-29 start to the season.