Friday, April 18, 2014

Wizards Clinch First Winning Season Since 2007-08 With Win Over Bucks

by John Vittas

Originally Published for Terp Report (April 12, 2014)

John Wall has never played on a winning NBA team, until now. Wall’s Wizards picked up win number 42 with a 104-91 victory over the Bucks on Saturday night at the Verizon Center, and clinched their first winning season since 2007-08.

“I’ve been here since 2010 when the tough times came and we won twenty-some games two years in a row,” Wall said. “It was tough. The organization did a great job of picking people and going out to get veteran guys and I think all the young guys did a good job of developing.”

This is only the sixth time the franchise has made the playoffs in the past 26 years.

“It’s important for our players number one, but for the town too,” Washington head coach Randy Wittman said. “This is a town that hasn’t seen that in a while and they’ve shown great support through some down times.”

Saturday’s 13-point win came against a Milwaukee team that played Washington tough despite sporting the worst record in the NBA. All three of their previous matchups were decided by eight points or less.

Bradley Beal did not play in the first two clashes and proved to be the difference Saturday. Beal scored a game-high 26 points on 12-for-22 shooting, and added three rebounds and five assists.

“Bradley was just being himself, making shots,” Al Harrington said. “That’s what he needs to do as our starting two-guard. He was aggressive and able to get it done for us.”

Milwaukee made their first four shots of the third quarter to take their first lead of the night. But Beal traded baskets with the Bucks, canning all four jumpers he took in the first five minutes of the second half.

“I was just shooting the ball with confidence, taking advantage of what the defense was giving me and how they were playing me,” Bradley Beal said. “My teammates did a great job of finding me and I was able to knock down a couple.”

Beal’s sharp shooting ignited the decisive 20-7 Wizards run, and they never led by less than 11 after that spurt.

“How we played in the third quarter, that’s how we have to play for 48 minutes,” Wall said. “We got them out of their rhythm.”

Washington got strong contributions from their veteran role players. Martell Webster, Al Harrington, Drew Gooden and Andre Miller all played 13 minutes or more off the bench. Each has at least eight years of NBA experience.

“I thought our bench was solid for us again, which is going to be important,” Wittman said. “It’s important to have contributions from everybody and the last two nights I felt they really stepped up.”

The Wizards will need strong contributions from those veterans no matter who they play in the postseason, with Chicago and Toronto the most likely opponents. Wittman said he wasn’t concerned with matchups, and dismissed any thought of trying to avoid a series with the Pacers or Heat.

“Whoever we’re going to play, it’s going to be a tough matchup. I don’t care who we play,” Wittman said. “We’ve beaten anybody that we’re going to have to face. I’m not worried about that.”

The Wizards are scheduled to end their home regular season on Monday night at 7 p.m. against LeBron James and the Miami Heat.

“Everybody’s putting on their better outfits, getting their car cleaned that day,” Al Harrington said about playing the Heat. “You just try and give it your all. That’s what Miami brings out in all the other teams.”

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