“We got contributions from everyone.”
True story, courtesy of coach Randy Wittman. But after finally breaking the ice (which coach Wittman claimed was 4-5 feet deep) and cracking through the win column for the first time this season, it was Trevor Ariza who earned the privilege of giving the team’s first victory speech alongside Big Tigger at midcourt. I guess it’s only fair to hail him as the WE game MVP as well. Ariza was poised for victory from the opening jump ball - which he turned into a quick layup before fans even realized the game had begun. Ariza seemed more comfortable in last night’s win than he had all season. He attempted makeable shots, wasn’t terrible in defending Nicolas Batum and finished with a super-efficient stat line: 14 points on 6-9 shooting, along with 5 boards, two assists and a steal in 36 minutes of burn.
Kevin Seraphin was efficient enough to finish with a double double (10 points, 10 rebounds). His midrange jump shot has been sporadic, but he’s hit enough of them to have the confidence to keep shooting. He even drained one from just inside the 3 point arc. Although he did grab those 10 boards, Seraphin still struggled to box out at times late in the game as Portland thrived on the offensive glass for much of the final quarter. Personally, I’m just waiting for Seraphin to master that shimmy shake baseline ball fake move he likes to pull every so often underneath the rim.
Lamarcus Aldridge found his spots on the floor, as he usually does on a nightly basis. He was able to find shots on his own as well as off the pick and roll, but coach Wittman knew exactly how to disrupt that, and Chris Singleton knew exactly how to execute.
“(Chris) battled Aldridge better than anybody we had, both in post-ups and pick and rolls,” Wittman praised of Singleton. In the final minute of the game, the Blazers, who had been thriving in the pick and roll with Aldridge and Damien Lillard, opted to run a post play for Aldridge instead. This decision was triggered mostly from the fact that Singleton was now defending Aldridge, as opposed to Emeka Okafor, who had been terrible in pick and roll defense. The strategy worked, as it eventually phased Aldridge out of the play and resulted in a 3-point shot that was airballed.
Very few things in life can compare to finally getting the first win of the season after a cringing, soul numbing, month-long period of basketball debauchery. Although, the overall discontentment of the fans and the scrutiny targeted at the front office is merely simmered after this win, we are all very well aware of how it doesn’t change much.
"It's a huge, HUGE weight off our back. But it's only one game, we still got a lot of digging to do." – Trevor Ariza.
But for this game, the Wizards finally made it right. They took control late in the third quarter with great defense and toughness around the rim, and took a nine point lead in the final quarter. They weathered that dreadful Blazers storm late in the fourth and played the ball well enough down the stretch (as detailed above) to secure the win.
Oh, and free throws. The Wizards were strong at the line throughout the night going 17 of 19, but their success at the line in the final quarter was key as they nailed all seven of their attempts, including two clutch shots by Emeka Okafor in the final minute, which was the ultimate difference in the game.
The Blazers owned the ‘Zards on the offensive glass, finishing with an 18-8 advantage in that department. Thank J.J. Hickson for that. All but one of Hickson’s 10 boards were off his own team’s missed shots. Late in the third quarter, the Blazers had four offensive rebounds during a one-minute stretch and at times during the in the fourth, the Wizards’ failure to box out became a disservice to some great defense.
I mean even with the win, the Wizards managed to get it done in the most Wizards way possible. A six minute scoreless drought in the fourth quarter allowed Portland to go on a 16-0 run to take a one point lead before JCraw’s steez finally halted the slump. Here are my unfiltered notes during the tumble: