#SoWizards almost showed its ugly face again tonight. In the third quarter, the Wizards held a 15 point lead playing behind a steady flow of consistent defense and three point bombs on offense.
The lead seemed safe, but the Knicks wouldn’t go away. The led fell down to 12 then it was 10. Then it was 9. Then it was 7. Then it was 5. And then, at the blink of an eye, behind 10 points from Sasha Vujacic — who is only in the league because he knows what a triangle looks like — the game was tied.
The Wizards, like they had done to so many other teams before, got a lead taken from right out of their hands. And they had to scrap to keep it.
The Knicks aren’t like any other bad team in the league. Obviously, they’re bad. But they have Carmelo Anthony. He knows how to rip hearts out, and he was in position to do so late in this one. The six points he scored late were all on tough buckets and free throws.
We’ve seen this story before. We know how this game ends. But in this moment, throughout this season, things were different. Despite their lack of poise, the Wizards were the ones who showed the Knicks the door instead of the other way around.
Instead of being closed out, Bradley Beal chose to be the closer tonight as he has done so many times this season. He scored seven points in the last 2:30 of the game to keep the Knicks at bay.
Included in those seven points were two huge free throws after what was almost a botched possession from the Wizards. With 32 seconds left in the game, the Wizards had the ball up one. John Wall was looking to draw a switch onto Willie Hernangomez, but picked up his dribble. He struggled to get the ball to Bradley Beal after the Knicks tipped his pass on the wing out of bounds.
Beal and Wall combined for 49 points on the night and connected multiple times, but no moment was more crucial than their connection on a lob play with 10 seconds left.
In a moment of genius, Scott Brooks dialed up a play that has been so successful for the Wizards all season long. He cleared the weakside of the floor and pinned Bradley Beal on the low block. Like they’ve done so many times before, Wall lobbed Beal the ball under the rim and he drew the foul.
Game. Blouses. Just like that, the Wizards win and keep the fight for 50 wins going. Here’s what we’ve learned.
The Wizards have a real chance to win 50 games
At the beginning of the season after their 2-8 start, the hope was that the Wizards could just creep into the playoffs. But now they’re two wins away from winning 50 games for the first time in franchise history.
The road isn’t easy. They face the Miami Heat twice who are jockeying for playoff position right now and the Detroit Pistons in between who are doing the same. Neither team is above .500 but they’ve both beaten the Wizards this season.
It won’t be easy, but the Wizards have a real chance at history here. No matter what way you cut it, this is one of the best teams in franchise history.
Kelly Oubre is back
Kelly Oubre has had his share of struggles this season, but over the last 10 games he’s stacked up solid performances.
Tonight, he played stellar defense on Carmelo Anthony at both forward positions, harassed guards into turnovers and blocked three total shots while blowing up plenty of other plays with quick hands. Did I mention that he scored 13 points?
This is the second game in a row Scott Brooks has chosen to ride him in the fourth quarter and the second game in a row it has paid off. It’s good to see Oubre playing well right now, but great to see him doing it during playoff time.
The Wizards are looking good right now. They’ve got two wins in a row under their belt behind defense that we haven’t seen since early February. Sure, the competition has a lot to do with it. But they play who they play.
These are two good wins for the team and, hopefully, they keep it up over the next three.