Wizards pick up first win vs. Blazers

Wizards pick up first win vs. Blazers
November 28, 2012, 9:30 pm
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Go ahead and pop those champagne bottles and rattle those pots and pans.

Ding dong -- the wicked streak is dead.

Led by Jordan Crawford [19 points], Trevor Ariza [14 points] and Kevin Seraphin’s second double-double of the season [10 points, 10 rebounds] the Wizards finally recorded their first win of the season Wednesday night, defeating the Portland Trailer Blazers 84-82 in front of a sparse but jubilant crowd at Verizon Center.

One male fan was so enthused by the win he fell over a railing near the Wizards bench and was saved from hitting the floor by Wizards center Emeka Okafor.

“He had a big smile on his face,” Okafor said. “Like the rest of us.”

No one felt the weight of the Wizards’ 12-game losing streak to start the season more than Wizards coach Randy Wittman and the 53-year-old coach wore a post-game smile for the first time all season.

“We just broke through the ice,” Wittman said. “I lived in Minnesota for 15-17 years and that ice was four or five feet [thick]. But it’s broken through now.”

With the win, the Wizards avoided the embarrassment of remaining the NBA’s only winless team the old fashioned way – they played defense like junkyard dogs.

That was certainly the case in the final minute when Wizards center Emeka Okafor came up with a huge block on J.J. Hickson, then drew a foul on LaMarcus Aldridge at the other end of the floor and drained both free throws.

“We were flying,” Okafor said. “If we were making mistakes defensively we were doing it at 100 miles and hour.”

Seconds later, Chris Singleton pulled down a huge defensive rebound on a miss by Damian Lillard [20 points] and the Wizards had their first win.

“I thought Chris was huge for us,” Wittman said. “He battled Aldridge probably better than anybody we had tonight … and Trevor Ariza was spectacular.”

Still, it came down to defense.

The sharpshooting Trail Blazers came into the game with a 44 percent shooting percentage, but were held to a season-low 35 percent Wednesday night.

The Wizards really clamped down in the second and third quarters when they held Portland to 24 percent in the second and 29 percent in the third to pull out to a 69-59 lead heading into the final quarter.

It marked just the second time all season the Wizards had a lead through three quarters and that advantage swelled to 15 points on a drive to the basket by Nene with about 9:30 to play.
That’s when things got interesting. Too interesting if you were Wittman.

Led by Damian Lillard, Portland went on a 12-0 run midway through the fourth to close within 79-76 with 4:31 to play.

That’s when Wittman called a timeout and gathered in his players.

Seconds later Hickson slammed down a two-handed dunk and the Wizards’ lead was down to 1. Hickson tied it less than a minute later by sinking one of two free throws and Nicolas Batum gave the Blazers the lead by dropping one of two from the line.

Crawford gave the Wizards an 82-80 lead, but Aldridge knocked down a jumper to tie it. That’s when the Wizards turned up the defense and ended their losing streak.

“We’re excited we won tonight,” said Nene, who finished with six points in 19 minutes. “Now we have fresh air.”

Ariza agreed, but with upcoming games against New York, Miami and Atlanta, he knows the work has just begun.

“It’s a huge, huge weight off your back as a team,” Ariza said. “But we can’t stop there. It’s only one and we’ve got a lot of digging to do.”