When Jordan Crawford leaned left, kicked out his right leg and his ridiculously-high arching shot splashed through the net as time expired, the Washington Wizards reserve guard leaned down and made a beeline for the locker room. Nene, Trevor Ariza and John Wall all looked around stunned, making sure that the shot counted - and that Wizards really had pulled out a 98-95 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers - before chasing down Crawford. But before Crawford couldn't even make to the other end of the court, point guard A.J. Price had already wrapped him in an embrace and other exuberant teammates crowded and danced gleefully.
Wizards Insider: Wizards’ Jordan Crawford saves best for last:
"I knew it was good," Trevor Ariza said. "Because that's the shot he shoots all the time. When it left his hand it just looked good." Emeka Okafor shook his head afterward to explain what transpired. "Nothing new. All net. That's what he does." In the locker room after the game, Beal said Crawford told his teammates that he was due for a game-winner. "He ended up making one, so," Beal said of Crawford. "He always makes shots like that. You could kind of tell it was going in. It looked good the way he shot it."
It's rare for Crawford to be praised for his willingness to shoot from anywhere, but this wild winner helps prove why he takes so many iffy shots in the first place. He's a very talented scorer with the ability to make many different kinds of shots. When the Wizards are forced into a desperation attempt, Crawford's one of the best choices to take the shot. It also helps that he was having a solid night in Portland - prior to this jumper, he'd made 2-of-3 from deep and 4-of-7 overall from the field in 22 minutes.
From start to oh-what-a-finish at the Rose Garden, there was relevant, competitive intrigue flowing through the Wizards' veins. Where most of the last two and a half seasons have bordered on irrelevance and at worst have been a side show act, the Wizards have put in one performance after another since John Wall's return - and even a couple games before - that they can be proud of. They've also entertained (in the right way). They've shown toughness and determination. They've made plays that will make fans out of those who aren't distracted or disillusioned by their record.
And surely not many could argue. Especially after Crawford was the one responsible for giving Wes Matthews a good look from deep to tie the game at 95 with eight seconds left. And with a chance to win, the Wizards originally looked to get the ball to Nene in the post, it seemed, but the Blazers clogged up the play, had a foul to give and used it. With just over three seconds left after the stoppage, there was no time to chuck the ball to Brazil in the post. Instead, this happened from Detroit:
Who else gon shoot? Jordan Crawford hit the game winning DAGGER from deep in the most Crawfordesque way ever, from 27 feet out. Jordan has the best possible personality-type to take a 27 foot game winner because he KNOWS (even though none of us know or even think) the shot is going in no matter what. He makes his living off of contested shots and doesn't rely on referees' calls for points, putting the outcome completely in his hands. I'm not saying Crawford would be the first pick in a game-winning shot contest, but he has the personality and game types. Thank you Steezus for giving me an adrenaline rush at midnight when I desperately need to be in bed.
But, while Crawford - who posted 13 points and one rebound in Portland - was undoubtedly the hero of the game, the true promise for celebrations to come rests not in the final seconds of Monday's contest, but in the fact that the Wizards have learned to spread the wealth and move the ball.
Blazers forward Nicolas Batum, who finished with 12 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds, three steals and two blocks, wasn't even going to take credit for registering his first career triple-double. "That doesn't count," he said. "We got swept by the Wizards. We lose six games in a row, I don't care about a triple double."
The NBA's worst team drained nine of their first 10 shots to start the game and finished the first quarter with a season-high 34 points, blindsiding a Blazers team that had talked for three days about needing to avoid its penchant for starting slow. Eventually, with Nene (24 points, nine rebounds) scoring at will, Martell Webster (24 points, six assists) torching his former team and the Wizards hitting timely shot after timely shot, the Blazers found themselves down by as many eight in the fourth quarter.
The better team walked off the floor of the Rose Garden Monday night with a victory, there's almost no way a sane person could disagree with that. Sadly, the better team in the RG Monday night was the Washington Wizards and not the Blazers.