Wizards vs. Warriors final score: Defense steps up in improbable 88-85 win

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Led by a stifling defensive effort, the Wizards stormed into Oracle Arena and shocked the high-powered Warriors' offense in an 88-85 win.

If you had any fingernails left, you were probably biting them as the Golden State Warriors took the ball down three to the Washington Wizards with six seconds left. There was Stephen Curry, perhaps the best shooter this game has seen in many years, yo-yoing with the dribble with a clear purpose: tie the damn game with a dagger three. If you told me you yelled FOUL at your screen and woke up your significant other, I wouldn't be surprised.

But the Wizards had locked in on the dangerous Warriors attack all day. They weren't about to stop now. And so, you got this unbelievable effort from Trevor Ariza to seal a huge 88-85 win.

That was a gutty win, a throwback to the very best stretches of last year when the Wizards made life uncomfortable to anyone who underestimated them. The Warriors shot just 37.5 percent from the field and hit only 7-23 from three-point range. The much-hyped Splash Brothers shot 13-40. David Lee was 2-10. Players that often take possessions off defensively were making multiple efforts. Look at the work John Wall did here on Curry.

That gave the Wizards a five-point lead, one they held until the final three minutes.

Of course, this was only a game because the offense was just as cringe-worthy. Too many possessions ended with wild Wall jumpers, so the Wizards couldn't pull ahead. And after the door was left open for so long, the Warriors finally charged through, tying the game with a Lee layup after the Wizards couldn't corral two rebounds with 1:47 left.

But the Wizards responded. After a Beal miss -- one of the few he had in the second half -- Ariza got an offensive rebound and found Wall beyond the arc. Confident -- perhaps too confident given his shooting performance prior to that sequence -- Wall stepped into the three and knocked it down for the lead.

You knew the Wizards weren't safe yet, because this is the Wizards. First, Marcin Gortat missed a chippy that would have extended the lead to five. Then, Curry missed a decent look at a three, though Nene guarded him well. And the only reason the Warriors even had a chance to tie was because Wall weirdly waved off a Nene screen and roll and couldn't generate anything on the penultimate possession.

But in the end, Ariza stepped up, and the Wizards had themselves a huge road win.

It didn't look like that'd happen in the second quarter, but a nice run at the end of the first half calmed things down, and fortunes really changed in the third quarter. The Wizards raised their defense to 2012-13 levels, swarming off the ball and getting arms in passing lanes. Every shot was contested, every pass difficult. The Wizards eventually built a seven-point lead on the strength of this defense.

Unfortunately, the Warriors rallied. As all this was happening, Wall was starting to make some odd decisions. A stepback contested jumper predictably fell off. A weird decision to throw a lob pass in the post to Ariza when the angle wasn't there predictably ended in a turnover. Poor decisions like these wiped away the lead, though the Wizards were able to recover for a one-point advantage after three.

Again, the seesaw happened. Beal caught fire with three threes to begin the quarter, but a Warriors response led by old nemesis Jordan Crawford evened things again, setting up the final sequence, when defense ruled the day.

It'll be tough to duplicate that effort in L.A. tomorrow night, but given the upcoming schedule, getting this W is huge.

OTHER NOTES:

  • Eric Maynor in the second quarter ... uh, why? The fourth clearly showed how much better Garrett Temple is.
  • No kiddie crew in this one. They'll be needed tomorrow, since everyone else is tired.
  • I was freaking out that Beal would either badly eclipse his minutes limit or be shut out of huge possessions when he would have been needed down the stretch. The latter kind of happened, but at least the Wizards got him in there when they needed him most.
  • We've gotten this far without mentioning Nene, which is a testament to the Big Brazilian's ability to do whatever is necessary to win. He badly outplayed Lee tonight.

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