WASHINGTON -- There were so many amazing singular moments along the way for Garrison Mathews on Monday night as he delivered the most unexpected individual performance of the Wizards' season so far, that there is no obvious place to start.
In the fourth quarter, while at the free-throw line, the rookie on a two-way contract was given 'MVP' chants by the Wizards crowd. After he scored his career-high 28 points on only nine shots, even he couldn't believe what had just happened.
"If you would have told me a year ago, I would be in this spot, I would have laughed at you," he said.
Or, you could point to the joke head coach Scott Brooks made that he then had to implore the media corps to laugh at and make sure Bradley Beal would know he was joking.
"There's no rush [to get Beal back from injury]. We've got Garrison now," Brooks said.
Beal was missing on Monday night, yet the Wizards managed to pull off their most impressive win of the season so far, a 125-104 victory over the Heat. Miami has the third-best record in the Eastern Conference and the Wizards were missing seven players due to injury, including their two-time All-Star shooting guard.
But several players stepped up to fill the void, including Mathews whose 28 points nearly matched the 30 total he scored in his previous 10 career games. It was enough to have the entire team douse him with water afterward and soak the locker room.
"They said 'they're waiting on you.' Next thing I know, I'm getting water dumped on me," Mathews said.
So, where did this come from? Let's start with the fact Mathews is the first NBA player ever to come from Lipscomb University, a private Christian school in Nashville, TN with a student body just short of 3,000 people.
He signed a two-way contract with the Wizards in July, then had the start of his career disrupted by a stress reaction injury. But he got healthy while other players were dropping left and right with injuries and, with Beal out, has been elevated to the rotation.
On Monday, he had a breakout performance and it all happened quickly. He had 20 points by halftime and finished with four threes and a 12-for-13 night at the free-throw line.
"As a shooter, when you see that first one go down, you feel like you can hit anything," he said.
Mathews is still very early in his professional basketball career, but this season for the Wizards is all about giving opportunities to young players and seeing what types of pieces they can develop. If Mathews becomes a reliable NBA three-point marksman, it wouldn't be far-fetched at all.
Perhaps the best example of what he could become was on the other team on Monday night. Duncan Robinson, like Mathews, is a 6-foot-6 three-point specialist who went undrafted and began his career on a two-way contract. Now he's making 46.2 percent of his threes on 7.1 attempts per game as a key rotation player on a very good team.
Maybe Mathews can prove to be a diamond in the rough. Well, actually can we call him that if he's already getting 'MVP' chants?
Mathews, by the way, said he didn't hear the 'MVP' chants in the fourth quarter in part because the crowd on his side of the court was so loud. The whole night was a rush he had never felt before, even during Lipscomb's run to the NCAA Tournament two years ago.
“The adrenaline was pumping for sure," he said. "The chills that I got when you hear the crowd going crazy like that, is something I have never experienced. Something I will definitely never forget.”
In a Wizards season that has so far been defined by losing and injuries, Mathews' performance won't be forgotten anytime soon.
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