The fat lady wasn’t warming up to sing an operatic number, not with 66 games left in the regular season. Then the flailing Washington Wizards, coming off consecutive double-digit losses, came out flat yet again. They trailed the Los Angeles Clippers by 19 points at halftime some 36 hours after the general public heard about their private quarrels and following weeks of basketball nightmares.
As the Clippers scored 40 points in the first quarter and led 73-54 at halftime. she might have at least begun some mental prep for an upcoming performance. Then came the comeback within the comeback. The Wizards rallied for a 125-118 win when all the world was ready to say sayonara.
Did Washington indeed save its season by outscoring Los Angeles 71-45 in the second half? Answering 'yes' presumes all is right with the gang that has struggled to defend throughout the season and possibly has chemistry issues even a family therapist couldn’t fix with thrice-weekly sessions.
The day began with coach Scott Brooks and the team’s stars addressing leaks of intense arguments among players and a scolding by All-Star John Wall directed to the head coach. There was no spark initially even with a different starting lineup.
The first half served as a season-long microcosm. It’s why rumors of breaking up the team seem plausible.
Over the remaining 24 minutes, the Wizards finally woke up. They flew around the court defensively and passed to the open man. The stars led. The team played like a group wanting to play for each other, willing to do whatever necessary for a win.
John Wall finished with 30 points. Bradley Beal scored 27. Otto Porter grabbed 14 rebounds to go with 11 points. Six players scored in double figures. Everybody ate.
“That’s how we need to play,” Beal told NBC Sports Washington. “Not going to say everything is fixed because we were still down [24 points], still have a lot of work to do. Got a lot of to change and get better. Our effort was there in the second half. That’s the type of intensity we have to have for the full 48.”
Numerous moments and performances stood out in the second half beyond the main players. Tomas Satoransky’s hustle helped begin the turnaround. Thomas Bryant, who started with Dwight Howard sidelined, provided interior energy. Jeff Green dropped 20 points. Markieff Morris, coming off the bench for the first time since Feb. 29, 2016, showed more than in recent games.
One play deep in the fourth quarter showed the difference between 16 games of defensive slumber and Tuesday’s resolve.
The clock ticked under five minutes with Los Angeles leading 109-107. Clippers forward Tobias Harris crushed the Wizards early and finished with 29 points. He had the ball near the left corner when Wall and Beal sprung an aggressive trap as the shot clock wound down. Morris over hustled for support. The late arrival helped. Shot clock violation, Wizards ball. Washington then took the lead with a Morris 3-pointer. They soon pulled away with an 11-2 run. Their main players showed the way.
“We have to,” Beal said to NBC Sports Washington. “When it’s coming from the main guys. John and I have to give more, more and more. That’s something we realize and tell each other that. That’s that only way we’re going to get out of it. We just have to give more.”
The Thanksgiving holiday provides a natural break. Washington resumes game action Friday at Toronto. At 6-11, the Wizards have work to do, but at least they can catch their breath after a surreal span.
“It’s a whirlwind. It’s a whirlwind,” said Beal, who remained in the game after suffering a cut over his eye following a head-butt collision with Clippers guard Tyrone Wallace. “We embrace it. Everything is a challenge. It’s adversity. We’ve been in this situation before. We’ve been in this situation where everybody thinks we have an issue. I think we did a great job of ignoring it as best we could. Doing what we could to get a win. A much-needed win at that.”
Clippers coach Doc Rivers monitors the Wizards because his son, Austin, serves Beal’s primary backup. More film work came leading into the second meeting between the teams. Los Angeles hammered Washington 136-104 on Oct. 28. Things were only getting worse for the Wizards. Then came the second half.
“They just forgot about the stuff they’re going through and got back to playing basketball,” Doc Rivers said of the Wizards.
“I’ve always thought that’s what you have to do. Every guy out there on both teams, they played basketball all their lives. Then you get all the, what I call ‘stuff.’ The clutter starts affecting your game. Tonight you could see the clutter was killing them early. Then when they saw they had a chance to win, they started playing basketball again.”
Assume nothing but sunshine and swishes going forward if you must. Ideally, the Wizards do not. They have work remaining. In the second half against the Clippers, Wall, Beal, and crew rose up. In doing so, the fat lady took a seat.
We’ll see for how long.
MORE WIZARDS NEWS:
- Emotional leader: John Wall opens up to Chris Miller after win
- Did that just happen? Explaining the Wizards' comeback win over the Clippers
- Coach has your back: Scott Brooks defends John Wall