WASHINGTON -- Last night, the Wizards continued their winning ways (three in a row!) against the Chicago Bulls (again), and gutted out a pretty fantastic win in front of a pretty fantastic and hyped-up home crowd.
And even though the Wizards beat the Bulls handily on Monday, and still even though they whooped the Heat in front of all kinds of fans (bandwagon and non-bandwagon alike), still even though-er they were beating the Bulls the entire first half ... there it was, again, staring everyone in the face.
The dreaded third quarter.
It's been no secret of late that the Wizards haven't been performing well in third quarters. It might not be the whole period, but there are stretches in every third quarter in the last three games where the Wizards haven't been able to get stops while the other team has gone on a run. Check out these scoring patterns (courtesy of ESPN.com):
Monday at Chicago:
Wednesday vs. Miami:
And last night vs. Chicago:
And it was during that particularly worrisome stretch in the third quarter that the Bulls charged from four points down to take a very commanding eight-point lead.
And then, it happened. Here's what it looked like in the play-by-play (via ESPN.com):
That moment -- right there, all two minutes and 32 seconds of it -- was the momentum shift that won the crowd back, won the Wizards' confidence back and can arguably be credited for giving the Wizards the oomph to win this thing.
Oh, and in case you didn't see what that sequence looked like, check these out (via @danecarbaugh):
I mean... what? How is that real? Did John Wall really make that? Was that a dream?
"It was a big shot for us," Bradley Beal said after the game. "It was definitely one that we needed because Chicago went on a big run... and that shot by John was definitely a big time shot by him. "
And thanks to that shot, the crowd was thirsty for blood. Luckily for them, on the next trip down, Martell Webster delivered. Beal said, "Martell Webster had a big three in [the third] quarter." Honestly, I think that's an understatement. Check out the video for yourself.
You can see (almost in slow motion) Webster with the ball in his hands with no one in sight, winding up, and in the background the crowd is rising to its feet in anticipation of that big three. If it goes in, it's a tie. If it doesn't go in, then hearts are broken all over the arena.
It goes in.
And I can say, as much as that Wall circus shot got the crowd back into it, I don't think I remember ever seeing the crowd collectively rise up in hope and anticipation as they did for that Webster three. For the tie.
Oh, and a little cherry on that comeback sundae: Wall for the lead.
After the game, Randy Wittman credited the team on their ugly and "gutty" win:
"We got down eight there in the second half and just kept pecking away," he said. "We got four stops in a row when they went up eight and we were able to convert at the other end and get the game back to even."
A lot can be said about the differences in defense between this year's Wizards and last year's (and we've said a lot about it on this site), but as the team continues to play and grow together, their collective composure and intelligence only gets better. That's a great sign for an up-and-coming team.
And while the Wizards have learned to beat their road woes, I think they're starting to consistently beat an even more dreaded opponent: The game-deflating run.
"I think last year we panicked a lot," Beal said after the game. "But this year ,we're way more poised. We get a lot more stops down the stretch on defense, and we execute on offense as well. So I think we do a great job of staying the course and executing when we got the opportunities to."
And to what does Wall credit the team's mental difference this year?
More on the game
More on the game
"Like what coach told us ... Everybody's going to make a run," he said. "You just got to withstand their run and stick with your concepts of playing defense the same way you've been playing, and keep running your offense. Sometimes you're going to take shots and miss them, and sometimes guys are going to make tough shots against you. You just got to stick with what your game plan is and trust it," he said.
"And sometimes you might find a way to lose those tough games, but you did it the right way," he added.
Luckily for the Wizards, doing in the "right way" has been paying off pretty well.
- Magical Pixels, Wizards vs. Bulls: John Wall leads Washington back to .500
- Wizards vs. Bulls final score: Wall powers Washington to 96-93 win
- Wizards vs. Bulls: Nene blocks the Wiz back to .500!
- Wizards vs. Bulls preview: Can Washington keep their momentum going?
- The Wizards' eight-man rotation is dangerous