Editor's Note: Bumped. -Mike
I was at the game earlier tonight, and this game was the most complete and fulfilling one I have seen from this team, maybe in all six seasons where I've been a Wizards season ticket holder. It just felt really good in a way that I just haven't felt before in a long time.
Also with this win, we are now 18-17 at home and we may even finish this year with a winning record at home! Hell, I think we will!
Just need to give some kudos on how our guys played tonight. Sorry if fandom overwhelms me here in advance.:
FIRST, to Martell Webster, who had the game of his life! 34 points including seven made threes and five assists. This man was on fire today! We've already said it so many times. This man needs to be re-signed as priority number one during this offseason, period! Sure, Ernie Grunfeld is responsible for much of the mess last few years, but to be fair to him, Webster is easily THE STEAL of the 2012 Free Agent class. Period! In fact, though some other players like Paul George, Omer Asik, and even former Terps star Greivis Vasquez may be sexier candidates, Webster deserves very strong consideration for the 2012-2013 NBA Most Improved Player Award. My homerism says that he's MY PICK! Keep UNVEILING THE WIZARD, or in Rook's words, "releasing the inner Bullet" my man!
SECOND, to John Wall, the first centerpiece of our rebuild, man, this guy is playing with a vengeance after being called out by David Falk for not being a true star in this league. John played as well as he has in his career including shooting over 70% in each of his last two games, had a double double tonight, and is becoming the point guard that I am confident that he can be! He's only shot below 40% overall in ONE game in March, which was the Brooklyn Nets game when Deron Williams went bonkers from deep. That block Wall made on Goran Dragic was sick by the way (and WIZ SPURTIN deserves major props from all of us for getting these action GIF's too)!
THIRD, though Webster and Wall will appear to take many, if not most of the headlines, Emeka Okafor once again provided us a double double with 17 points and 10 rebounds and I didn't even really realize it until after I came back home because I was SO proud of Martell tonight! Sure, the Okariza trade may have prevented us from some other moves, but we certainly didn't get the bottom end of this trade either!
Though it was questionable as to whether he'd play tonight, Bradley Beal came off the bench and didn't miss a beat, making three of his four shots from three. In addition, Nene continued to provide us solid play throughout the game and was not fazed after he got dunked on by Michael Beasley who got a t'ed up after rubbing it in a little too much. In fact I remember that he got two quick shots soon after.
Garrett Temple came to us right after Shaun Livingston was waived and he has played more minutes recently with Beal and A.J. Price when they got injured. Really pleased that he got three three pointers in the game, which is also his career high! Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin have been getting varying amounts of playing time throughout this season. Tonight, they played hard and still didn't miss a beat when their number was called. Booker also got 9 boards tonight, and got 12 or more rebounds in his two games before then!
Speaking about players who haven't gotten much playing time, Cartier Martin also made some positive contributions where he scored 5 points including another made three after his 11 point showing yesterday. Even Jan Vesely played and as DCRez noted, he didn't foul anyone this time! Trevor Ariza and Jason Collins didn't play, but there's always next game!
Even though this season started off on the wrong foot and in large part due to injury, I'm really glad this group still stuck through the thin times and with a roster with all of our major impact players back, we're now becoming the team that I wanted to see this season. For that, I need to give kudos to Randy Wittman for staying level headed even though many of us haven't been that way.
What made this game so great to watch, wasn't just the fact that we blew the Phoenix Suns out. We continued to play solid defense throughout the entire game, even when the outcome was all but decided. That is also a positive testament to what Coach Wittman and his staff are doing here in DC on the defensive end in particular where we're in the Top five in both overall FG%age defense and three point FG%age defense. The only teams ahead of us in overall FG%age defense are the Indiana Pacers and Oklahoma City Thunder in that order, both playoff caliber teams at the VERY least. And in the second category of three point FG%age defense, the Pacers are at the top once again, with the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, and Portland Trail Blazers ahead of us. With the exception of Portland, all the other teams ahead of us there are also playoff bound teams. I can't remember a time where we were among the leaders in these categories, and if anything I remember we were the worst in three point FG%age defense in the 2007-2008 season, the last time we made the playoffs, and were second worst in overall FG%age defense in the 2008-2009 season when we only won 19 games when Gilbert Arenas missed all but two games.
Sure, maybe a playoff berth is out of reach this year (though you can never say never), but if our top five players (Wall, Beal, Nene, Webster, and Okafor) can stay healthy to start the season and if we can make a good acquisition in free agency or the draft, I think we have the chance to build something special for next season. I'm not saying that we're an Eastern Conference contender just yet since we still can use more talent, but I am seeing a group of guys who play basketball with great chemistry, and yet have a professional and hard-working mentality both on and off the court.
I know I've been critical of this team not putting out a good product on the floor each night, but my view on this team has gradually changed as of late. After seeing this team over the last couple months in particular after Wall came back, I now don't think that most Wizards wins are upsets. I now expect us to go for a win, regardless of who it is. The defense we have is as good as any other team in the NBA, and the offense is now starting to click very nicely, even though it's not always going to be like the game we just had against Phoenix tonight. And that's something I really couldn't say about the Wizards in quite some time.
Even though we just went 3-0 in this recent homestand, six of our next seven games are on the road, including games at the Los Angeles Lakers, the Golden State Warriors, and the Oklahoma City Thunder. We even have to go to US Airways Center next Wednesday to face the Suns again where they're definitely going to try to return us the favor. And let's be honest. The 5-25 road record definitely has room for improvement. However, when we're focused on playing great basketball like at home, we can definitely do well on this road trip, which starts this Monday, against the current NBA-worst Charlotte Bobcats. Hopefully we start this trip on the right foot there before heading out west for the second Phoenix game, and I'm confident that we will and improve on that road record.
And lastly, my kudos goes to all of you fellow members of Bullets Forever and to Mike Prada for making this site what it is. It feels great to be part of an online community on this team with you all, sticking through everything that goes on with this team, whether the times are great or when they're tough. A lot of it over the last several years has been tough considering the continuous losing, and yes, I do think changes can still be made to improve the team if it's going to be a perennial Finals contender, but it's going to feel real good for all of us when this team gets there and is silencing the critics from the national media. And I now am seeing signs that this team can take those next steps toward that direction.
Enjoy your weekends and sleep well tonight my friends!