All it takes, apparently, is a bunch of guys who were sick and tired of being characterized as sad sacks, and a special incentive: not having their two top scorers. The woeful Washington Wizards, losers of 28 of 32 games before tonight, and missing both Nenê and Jordan Crawford, managed to embarrass the Oklahoma City Thunder for most of the night; with 36 seconds left, a Kevin Durant trey tied it up, but a Bradley Beal jumper with 0.3 left put the Thunder away, 101-99.
The numbers indicate a squeaker: Washington outshot the Thunder, 44-43 percent; the Wiz got one more rebound (45-44); the Thunder had one more assist (22-21). In fact, it wasn’t that close: the Wizards made the plays late when they had to. Washington, the least effective team from distance, made 10 of 18 from beyond the arc, while Oklahoma City, the most effective, made only six of 25. And in the absence of Big Scorers, the Wiz distributed the points: both Beal and Martell Webster snagged 22, Kevin Seraphin 19, and Emeka Okafor 12 (and 12 rebounds). The reserve Wizards only got 17 points for the night, 10 by Jan Vesely, but the Thunder bench could manage only 13, Kevin Martin going 3-12 for a mere eight.
In fact, nobody from OKC shot that well except Serge Ibaka (12-17 for 26 points, 11 rebounds) and Thabo Sefolosha (5-7 for 14). Durant was an iffy 9-19 for 29; Russell Westbrook was a sub-iffy 4-17 for 17. And then there’s the Great Iron Warrior, Kendrick Perkins, who took exactly two shots all night, missed them both, but did retrieve 11 boards. It was the kind of night where you hope Hasheem Thabeet has something going for him, which for the most part he didn’t.
And you might want to note this: the now 5-28 Wizards are 2-2 against last year’s Finals competitors, having already beaten the Heat once in three tries. Once in a while, the Verizon Center crowd gets happy.
Speaking of hometown crowds, Loud City will be mostly vacant this month: the Thunder will host the Timberwolves Wednesday night, followed by three road games, then the Nuggets the following Wednesday, followed by six road games. Welcome to Crunch Time.