WASHINGTON -- The Wizards bench as a whole shined in the win over Orlando, but it was the play of Otto Porter that got the Wizards going when they needed it most.
With time running out in the third quarter, the Orlando Magic looked poised to take control. After falling behind by by 10 points at the half, the Magic fought their way back into the game, cutting the Wizards lead to one just after Nene and Paul Pierce checked out of the game.
The Wizards offense looked like it can at its worse, missing midrange shot after midrange shot, not getting the ball to the rim and failing to score from beyond the arc. It was the kind of sequence that brought to mind the poor second half starts that plagued the Wizards in bad losses last season.
It was against this backdrop that Otto Porter and Kris Humphries came on the floor. Porter had seemed mostly invisible in his previous stint of the court, a fact not lost on Randy Wittman.
"I didn't even know he was out there in the first half," Wittman said after the game.
Yet Porter quickly took advantage this time of playing next to John Wall, asserting himself offensively without hesitation. Wall assisted Porter on a pair of consecutive jumpers, first penetrating and finding Porter just inside the three-point line, then hitting Porter off a Marcin Gortat screen for a baseline jumper. Porter returned the favor to Wall, setting him up for the corner three to give the Wizards a seven point lead and some breathing room going into the fourth.
Even Tobias Harris's efforts to exploit his strength advantage on Porter failed, with one post up attempt leading to a Magic turnover and the other leading to a Garrett Temple rejection at the wind
"They really gave us a cushion going into the fourth quarter with their play," Wittman said of the bench. "At the end of the third, I thought they were really good. Otto in the second half, he just finally started looking at the basket and starting to be a little more aggressive."
It was a cushion the Wizards needed with Orlando continuing its improved scoring into the final period. In a quarter that saw just one field goal made by a Wizard starter, Washington was able to counter every blow the Magic delivered, often with their second-year small forward from Georgetown throwing the punch.
Porter got things going catching a Kevin Seraphin pass for a jumper from the top of the key. Later in the quarter, with the Magic down just five, the Wizards reserves answered.with a run of their own. Porter did his part by hitting a jumper in transition to force the Magic to call a timeout. Then, with his dribble cut off in the paint, Porter hit a fading one-legged shot that was just a little reminiscent of the kind Dirk Nowitzki made famous.
He topped off his scoring for the night with a breakaway jam to give the Wizards an 11 point lead that proved insurmountable.
To put the second half into perspective: the Wizards five starters hit just seven of the 23 shots they took in the second half, while Porter alone went 6-7, pairing his 13 points with a couple of assists and strong play on the defensive end.
It continues the resurgence of a second year player who was as invisible last year as he was in the first half of the Magic game. Thus far, Porter's shooting 54.5 percent from the field and 44 percent from beyond the arc while averaging 8.6 points per game.
How good can he be? It's hard to say so far. He can seem an afterthought on offense when playing with the second unit, but when he's gotten to run with the starters, he's shown his talent as a versatile and intelligent offensive player and a defender who makes up for his limited athleticism with length and position.
For the second time in four regular season home games, the second half was the Otto Porter show in Washington. And there is something about the lanky forward from Missouri that gets the normally somnolent Verizon Center crowd going. Perhaps its the Georgetown connection. Perhaps its just rooting for a nice guy who had a rough rookie season.
But whatever it is, when Porter's on, the crowd wakes up.