CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Washington Wizards may have found the recipe for winning this season: playing the Charlotte Bobcats.
Well, that and a balanced offensive attack.
The Wizards (4-16) defeated the Bobcats for the second time in four nights Saturday 102-99 as six players scored in double digits, including JaVale McGee, who led the way with 22 points and 10 rebounds.
The week’s two wins equal the Wizards’ total number of victories in their first 17 games combined.
John Wall added 13 points and 10 assists for the Wizards (4-16). They also got 21 points from Nick Young, while reserves Trevor Booker and Jordan Crawford chipped in with 16 and 12 points, respectively.
“We had good balance,” Wall said. “I think tonight nobody cared about who scored. We just went out there and played basketball. That’s what you’ve got to do to win. Some nights it’s going to be different people leading in scoring and you’ve just got to live with it.”
Washington’s victory offset a terrific performance from rookie Bobcats rookie Kemba Walker, who had 20 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. Walker became the first rookie this season to register a triple-double.
Three rookies accomplished the feat a year ago: Wall, Blake Griffin and Jordan Crawford.
Coach Paul Silas has asked Walker to look for his teammates more since moving over to point guard following the injury to D.J. Augustin last week. On Saturday night Walker seemed to heed the message.
He seemed to see the floor better than he has in his previous three starts at the point.
“I was just more patient tonight,” Walker said. “I’ve been watching a lot of film with the coaches and they’ve been showing me certain opportunities that I have on the court that I haven’t been taking. Tonight, I just took those opportunities and that just made things a lot easier.”
Silas said Walker, the ninth overall pick in the NBA draft, is starting to develop some point guard skills, which is encouraging.
“He really is coming along and he’s a really good rebounder for his size,” Silas said. “He gets in there all the time and he’s putting up numbers on the board scoring-wise. This is really going to help them, as I told all the guys.”
For two teams battling to stay out of the NBA basement, it was a fairly intense game.
Wall said he could sense the Bobcats (3-18) wanted this game after losing earlier this week to the Wizards. The Bobcats have lost eight straight.
“We knew they wanted revenge for what we did to them on Wednesday night so we were coming out knowing it was going to be a tough match,” Wall said. “We figured out how to close out the game down the stretch.”
Well, sort of.
The Wizards made it more interesting than it needed to be.
Trailing 102-99 with 41.2 seconds left, the Bobcats had a chance to tie, but burned almost the entire shot clock, unable to get a look at an open three-pointer as the Wizards stepped up the defence. Eventually, Boris Diaw drove the lane but missed and McGee quickly grabbed the rebound.
The Bobcats immediately fouled.
McGee had a chance to put the game on ice but with the Wizards leading by three missed two free throws with 6 seconds remaining. The Bobcats got the rebound off the second miss and called timeout.
They set up an inbounds play but Matt Carroll missed a deep three-pointer at the buzzer.
“I caught it a little deeper than I wanted and I was kind of hurried,” Carroll said. “I had a good look, but it just didn’t fall.”
It was Washington’s first win on the road.
“It feels good to get this first one because it’s much earlier than last year,” Young said. “It took us like 30-something games last year, so this is a big improvement.”
McGee was the latest centre to have a field day against the Bobcats, exposing their lack of an interior defence. McGee shot 9 of 14 from the field and had good success using his hook shot.
Booker also ripped up the Bobcats, hitting on all six of his shots, most of those in and around the lane.
“Book, with his ability to roll to the basket and catch and finish was huge,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “I don’t think he missed a shot did he? I mean 6 for 6, that was huge.”
The Bobcats got a good effort from Diaw, who was back in the starting lineup and contributed 21 points and 10 assists. Byron Mullens scored 23 points, while Carroll and Tyrus Thomas each added 13.
Notes: Washington shot 53 per cent from the field and won despite being out-rebounded by the smaller Bobcats 42-32. … The Bobcats were playing without five players, including their two leading scorers: Gerald Henderson and Augustin. Augustin has missed the last four games with a toe injury, while Henderson sat out after re-injuring his back in Friday night’s loss to the 76ers.