Sometimes you just don't have it. The Wizards had a 60-48 lead over the Philadelphia 76ers at halftime. Wall had 16 first half points and 12 of those came in the fourth quarter. Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris, both, had 10 rebounds in the first half and were closing in on double-doubles.
But none of that mattered moving into the second half.
Philly started off with a 24-4 run on the Wizards behind the great defensive play of Nerlens Noel, hard defensive stands with multiple forced turnovers and even a couple of fluke-ish threes from Noel and Richaun Holmes early in the fourth quarter.
Overall, the Wizards were dominated in the third quarter. They turned the ball over eight times in total and were outscored in the quarter 34-19.
The Wizards were down by as many as eight points to Philly in the third quarter and, despite an amazing scoring outing by John Wall, it looked as if the Wizards' offense would not be able to function enough to snuff out a win on their home floor against one of the worst teams in the history of the NBA.
But Wall wouldn't allow it. And-1 after and-1, three pointer after three pointer, dunk after dunk, Wall slowly chipped away at Philadelphia's lead. After a flagrant 1 foul was called on Bradley Beal for a block attempt on Jerian Grant, the 76ers were up 93-86 with just under nine minutes left to play.
Then Wall and Gortat took over. Wall hits a three on the next possession, after a stop, Gortat hits and and-1 the possession after that. After another Gortat offensive rebound, Wall drives to the rim and finishes for another And-1 to give the Wizards a 95-93 lead capping a 9-0 run by Washington over just under two minutes.
The Wizards never looked back from there and rode that lead to the end of the game. Wall and Gortat combined for 29 fourth quarter points for Washington including a dagger from Wall that put the Wizards up 114-107 late in the game.
The win was ugly, but the Wizards will take it. I'm not sure I've quite processed the entire game just yet, but here's what we've learned.
Washington continues to struggle with playing down to competition
In recent weeks, the Wizards have been quoted as saying that they've continued to play down to competition. Jared Dudley, Bradley Beal and Wall have all noted that they tend to ease up on their opponents depending on who is playing. That's an issue that really has to stop, and it almost bit them again tonight.
Had the Wizards lost this game, it would've been devastating. They've got the Timberwolves coming up, who are no joke, then Cleveland, Indiana, Portland and Utah in their next four games. That's not the hardest stretch, but those are four teams with playoff aspirations. None of the next five games will be easy for Washington, and they do not have time to lay any eggs as they make their final playoff push.
Markieff Morris is paying off
Sure, the Wizards gave up way too much for Morris in their trade with the Phoenix Suns. Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair weren't cracking the rotation anymore, but attaching a first round pick to ship them out is pretty hefty.
With that being said, though, it's good to see Morris having a couple of good games in a row in Cleveland. He notched a double in tonight's outing with 16 points, 13 rebounds, and five assists in 37 minutes. For the first time, he looked to have a rhythm here.
He still has yet to hit a three pointer, but that has never been his specialty. Some of his post looks aren't falling, but his passing ability from the elbow and his post position have been two really good additions for Washington so far. He performed well with the starting lineup tonight and may continue to start as the Wizards move forward.
Over their next five games, the Wizards will need everyone to play well so they can get back over .500 and be right in the thick of things for the first time in a long time. We'll see how it goes.