Welcome back, John Wall! The Wizards' guard made three huge plays down the stretch and Washington came away with a shocking road win over the high-powered Denver Nuggets.
There's no other way to say it: that was an unbelievable win.
There were so many times when I thought the Washington Wizards would get blown out on Denver's home floor. When the Wizards' transition defense fell apart like a house of cards in the second quarter, I thought it'd be over. When Ty Lawson went off in the third quarter, I thought it'd be over. When the Wizards were involved in yet another tight late-game situation, I thought it'd be over. When the Wizards again missed critical free throws, I thought it'd end poorly. But for once, the Wizards pushed through all these problems, coming away with a 112-108 win in Denver.
Wow. What a win.
This thing got sealed with so many clutch plays by John Wall. Great to have him back, huh? There was his drive to the basket on Andre Miller to give the Wizards a two-point lead, a take that took about 0.0005 seconds. There was his tough drive and whip to the corner for a Trevor Ariza three, which missed, but sucked the Nuggets' defense in enough for Kevin Seraphin to get an easy putback on the rebound. And, of course, there was the game-saving block on Ty Lawson, a play where Wall, as he tends to do, helped off his man to make the clutch play that sealed the deal. It's so, so great to have him back.
There were other heroes as well. Bradley Beal kept the Wizards alive with timely scoring in the second quarter. The April 2012 version of Kevin Seraphin returned in the fourth quarter, as he dominated JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried in the paint. Trevor Ariza's perimeter shooting somehow was there, and his perimeter defense down the stretch kept Lawson in check after his 23-point third quarter. Nene was a steady influence as usual, playing admirably in his return to Denver. Without those players, the Wizards don't win tonight.
But in the end, this was what the Wizards envisioned when they said that a healthy Wall makes all the difference. The Wizards have blown so many games late this season with Wall on the shelf. Tonight, they got one because Wall was healthy.
- Wall was a beast at the end, of course, and I don't want to take away from that too much. But there were instances earlier in the game where he continued to struggle with his decision-making. He had one play where he tried a full-court pass between several defenders to the rim. It got through, but Trevor Booker, understandably, wasn't expecting it. He had another where he waived off one pick and roll play to set up another where he would come at the rim from mid-court at full speed, but then threw the ball right to Corey Brewer once he got in the lane. You don't want to take his aggression, because there were other times when it served him well, but he should understand that sometimes he doesn't have to make the spectacular play.
- The Wizards had Ariza guarding Lawson late in the game, and save for one drive to the rim late, Ariza did a really nice job using his length to bother him. As much as we hate Ariza's offense, his defensive versatility is often useful.
- Jordan Crawford looked kind of rusty in his first game back, scoring just eight points. He had trouble finding himself within the flow of the half-court offense. This is definitely something to watch.
- While Nene sometimes forced shots, I'd rather have him attack the rim than kick out to shooters when he doesn't need to do so.
- Beal freaked me out when he fell that hard on that late drive to the basket. That he got up and nailed two free throws shows just how tough he is. He literally bounced off the floor.