Garrett Temple and Shelvin Mack don’t want to pack their bags and return to the D-League. Kevin Seraphin doesn’t want his mentor, Nene, to be mad at him again. Bradley Beal didn’t want a second-straight scoreless dud on his highlight reel.
All in all, those were just a few of the motivating factors that led to an inspired effort by the Washington Wizards, who defeated the Orlando Magic 105-97 on Friday at Verizon Center. The win snapped an eight-game losing streak for the Wizards and improved their record to 4-23. The Magic fell to 12-17.
The best surprise of the night was the play of Temple, in just his second game for the Wizards. Temple joined the team on Christmas Day after being called up from the Reno Bighorns. Temple played just under 35 minutes and scored 13 points on 6 of 8 from the floor with six assists and six rebounds.
“I thought Garrett was huge,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “I think I had him guarding three people at one time. Defensively, I thought he was key for us, and he doesn’t know half of what we’re doing. I’m throwing him out there to the wolves, and I couldn’t be prouder of him.”
Another key to the Wizards win was their ability to maintain the lead while Nene was on the bench and for once, not falling apart while their starting center is getting some rest.
“It gives me a chance to save some minutes [for Nene],” Wittman said. “Because of the minute limit, [we] have more at the end of the game and we can have him in the game in key situations. I was able to play him the last eight or nine minutes, which was big.”
The 105 points scored by the Wizards tied their highest point total of the season. They also scored 105 in a Dec. 4 defeat of the defending champion Miami Heat. Their 47.7 shooting percentage was the second highest of the season, just below the 48.1 they shot in that same game against Miami. After leading at halftime, the Wizards never trailed.
“For our guys to not put their heads down to grind it out,” Wittman said, “that just shows the character of these guys.”
Jordan Crawford led all scorers with 27 points, and added six rebounds and six assists, and Nene had a season high 23 points with 11 rebounds and four assists. Beal had 11 points. And Kevin Seraphin played a far more aggressive game than he has in recent outings, with 17 points on 8 of 18 from the floor, six rebounds, six assists, and made his first trip to the free throw line in three games.
To Seraphin, just as important as the win was the fact that Nene was impressed with his play against the Magic.
“He was happy, he was glad,” Seraphin said. “He told me ‘that’s the way to listen.’ I carry everything to heart that he tells me and I try to execute it. It feels very good to get this win.”
The difference, Seraphin said, was playing hard, going to the paint and executing. Seraphin was 1 for 2 from the line, which is a start a good start, but something he still needs to improve on. Nene went to the line 10 times and connected on nine of his attempts.
“He’s taken some steps,” Wittman said of Seraphin’s progress. “We’re still trying to work with him in the paint. It’s got to be a power move, not a move away from the basket. I saw some things he did tonight that carried over from the last couple of weeks.”
As the game drew to a close, Wizards fans began standing and cheering, glad to be celebrating a win as opposed to a free food promotion due to an opposing player’s missed free throws.
It took the calm demeanor of Jordan Crawford to put the Wizards victory into perspective.
“Making shots,” Crawford said succinctly, when asked what the difference was in the team’s ability to close out the game. “Making shots,” he repeated. “Everybody was confident. We played this team well about a week ago. Hopefully, we’ll keep it up.”
• Carla Peay can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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