The Washington Wizards led their home opener by as many as 21 points last night at the Verizon Center, in a 90-84 upset loss to the New Jersey Nets. John Wall and the Wizards played well in the first half but struggled in the second as Deron Williams and forward Kris Humphries found rhythm off the pick n’ roll. Washington cut an eight point deficit to three in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter, but a turnover by Wall within the last twenty seconds cost the Wizards a chance of getting any closer.
“I should have passed it right away,” Wall said after the game. “I took an extra dribble and Kris made a great play and deflected the pass.” Washington went on a 5-0 run in response to an open three point make by Nets guard Anthony Morrow with 1:37 in the fourth quarter. On the next Nets possession the Wizards buckled down on defense and forced center Johan Petro to take a 20′ jumper, which he shorted due to pressure from Wall. However, with 25.9 seconds left to play, Wall pushed the ball without his teammates and found himself triple-teamed in the paint. With nowhere left to go, Wall tried to connect with Jordan Crawford behind the three point arc, but Humphries deflected the pass.
“It felt great to win after being down 21,” Humphries said postgame. “We just stuck with it. Some of the guys missed a lot of easy shots in the first half and they started to go in a little bit in the second half.” Despite the trouble New Jersey had in the first half, Humphries played a rather balanced night. He finished the game with 21 points (9-for-14) and 16 rebounds, pestered Andray Blatche into committing a technical foul, and absorbed all of the Kardashian-based boos the fans could throw at him. As long as Brook Lopez remains out (foot), Humphries remains a viable Fantasy option this season.
Williams, an established Fantasy stud, finished with 23 points, 9 assists, and 8 rebounds despite a slow start. “We are definitely proud of the way we battled back and hung in there,” he said after the game. “The last three quarters we were a lot better. It seemed like not much was going right in that first quarter and just couldn’t hit shots or get stops.” The Wizards played tough over the first half, but they had no answer for Williams and Humphries in the second. The duo scored 10 points each in the third quarter, which gave the Nets the momentum and confidence needed to pick-up the road win.
“I thought we responded poorly,” Wizards Head Coach Flip Saunders said after the game. “When we got up 20 points, we were playing team basketball. We were doing it the right way, and we got away from that. We responded in a very selfish way.” The biggest culprit? Wall. He went 1-for-9 from the field in the second half after a respectable 2-for-4 over the first two quarters. He pushed without his teammates and tried too hard to compete with reserve Nets guard Sundiata Gaines, who gave Wall trouble all night. Wall finished with 13 points on 3-for-13 shooting, 5 assists, and 8 rebounds.
Despite Wall’s lack of assists, all five Wizards starters scored 9 or more points. However, reserve Nick Young ended up leading the team with 16 points in just over 17 and a half minutes off the bench, while the only Wizard to knock down a three happened to be forward Chris Singleton–not a great sign of a potent Wizards offense, down the line. Starting shooting guard Jordan Crawford finished with 15 points in just under 28 minutes. Coach Saunders said the starting shooting guard role was determined as a result of Young not being quite there in terms of conditioning since he missed the entirety of training camp (due to free agency). Saunders said the Wizards will try to play Young “24-26 minutes (off the bench) till he gets his legs under him.”
Whether it was a lack of conditioning or not, Young suffered a “foot jam” injury in the third quarter, yet he returned to action in the fourth despite the pain. “I felt like it was over for me but the fans made me feel really special with the way they were cheering for me and made we want to get back out there as soon as I could,” Young said postgame. “It was hurting but I wanted to push through it and come back for my team.” Young described the injury as the outcome of Blatche putting his weight on Young’s foot, and while he finished the game, he may be a day-to-day Wednesday as the Wizards visit the Atlanta Hawks.
For more on the game check out New Jersey Nets Examiner Gregory Hrinya.