Tuesday March 29, 2011 10:32 a.m.
By Frank Hanrahan
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The last game of a long road trip usually spells disaster for the Wizards, but not this time around as Washington ended the five-game trek out west with a gutty 100-95 overtime win at Utah. For a team that has struggled immensely on the road this season, it was good to see the Wizards do the unpredictable, and scrap and claw for just their second win away from Verizon Center all season long.
Even though the Wizards went 1-4 on the trip, there are certainly some positive things you can take away from the journey.
Stating the obvious here, but John Wall is a baller and he continues to legitimize why he is clearly the future of this franchise. Wall set the tone early against Utah. The rookie guard had his track shoes on and his touch going against the Jazz in the first half, darting by defenders at will and finishing shots over taller defenders in different fashion. By front rim, back rim and or by the glass, Wall had his full repertoire going, scoring 24 points on 9-10 shooting in the first half. Wall would score only 4 points in the second half as his teammates stepped up to provide the offense.
Jordan Crawford was one such teammate as he became the closer against Utah. We knew that Crawford liked to shoot, but we also got to see the rookie show that he is not bashful when it comes to shooting clutch shots. Crawford showed his moxie by hitting a tough baseline jumper to tie Utah at 85-85 with 4.4 seconds left that would force overtime. In the extra session, Crawford had two big steals that led to four of his 25 points. Crawford's quick hands and nose for the ball were on display as he had 4 steals, including those overtime plucks, in the win over the Jazz.
Crawford also showed on the road trip that he can spell Wall at the point when need be or, as they did at times, slide Wall to the 2 and have Crawford run the point which he did admirably. It never hurts to have another capable ball handler.
Wizards' center JaVale McGee had another strong outing against Utah and a solid road trip overall. In fact, this is clearly the best stretch of basketball McGee has played in his third year as a pro, with three straight games of double-doubles in points and rebounds. McGee followed up his career high 28 points and 18 rebounds versus Golden State on Sunday night, with 11 points and 17 rebounds against Utah.
Wizards' swing man Maurice Evans got the start for the injured Nick Young against Utah, and as usual, Evans was steady on both ends of the floor -- and hen scored 7 points in overtime to help the Wizards seal the deal against the Jazz.
Signed to a second 10-day contract, swing man Othyus Jeffers provided some quality minutes off the bench, specifically against Utah, banging the boards for 5 offensive rebounds and scoring 6 points.
Without core players Nick Young, Rashard Lewis, Trevor Booker, Josh Howard and Andray Blatche because of injury, the Wizards were really competitive in 3 of the 5 games during the road trip. I never like to use injuries as an excuse but that's a lot of guys missing and for the way the Wizards fought without them, was admirable.
There is no doubt the Wizards have some building blocks for the final stretch of the season with Wall, McGee and Crawford playing well. They get a real test Wednesday night with Miami coming to town.