Wizards reach .500 with win over Magic
Martell Webster wasn't on Monday, which should've been bad news for the Wizards who already were missing Bradley Beal as they tried to reach .500 for the first time in four years.
Never fear, Trevor Ariza is here. And in a contract year -- Ariza is a free agent after this season -- he's making a statement.
Ariza, noted as the Wizards' best 1-on-1 defender, torched the Orlando Magic by making 8 of 9 shots. In a game vs. the Atlanta Hawks a few days before that, he shot 7 of 10.
Included in those totals he combined to shoot 9-for-10 on three-pointers. Both were home victories.
"For some reason, those guys on my team, between him, Brad, Martell, they might get the most open-corner threes in the league," said John Wall, who had 13 assists in the 98-80 win vs. Orlando.
When Wall attacks off the dribble, Ariza drifts deep to the corners. He registered assists on three of Ariza's four three-pointers. When Nene or Marcin Gortat get fed the ball in the low post, they're exceptional at making the defense pay for collapsing by passing to the open man. Lately, that has been Ariza.
"We got open shots. A lot of open looks. When they double in on Nene, March, John penetrating to the basket, kicking out to our shooters, we're just playing," said Ariza, who scored 19 of his game-high 24 points vs. Orlando in the first half. "When you get a lot of time to tee it up, you're not going to miss too many."
Gortat assisted on Ariza's other three-pointer.
"They're doing a great job of setting screens," Wall said of Nene and Gortat. "It's tough to guard us in the post. They can score and are willing passers. That makes the job easier for us. We're not just a perimeter team."
The Wizards' first basket against the Magic came on a three-pointer by Ariza. They lost their 13-point lead at the end of the first quarter and even fell behind early in the second. By the end, Ariza drilled another three and had got a steal for a breakaway dunk to help stretch the Wizards' lead back to double-digits by halftime.
In just 31 minutes, Ariza was done. The Wizards (9-9) won in a rout and his legs got to rest, which is important considering that Ariza already has missed five games with a right hamstring strain.
They lost seven of their first nine to start the season. They've now won seven of their last nine.
"I don't think anything has changed," said Ariza, who is averaging 15.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and shooting 43% from three. "We just stuck with what we were doing in practice everyday."