Washington Wizards: Randy Wittman Pushes Right Buttons, Nick Young Ignites Upset Victory Over Lakers

1:34 AM, Mar 8, 2012   |    comments
The confetti and streamers were actually worth it this time. The Wizards snapped an eight game losing streak to the Lakers Wednesday night at the Verizon Center. Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE
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WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- It was as unexplainable as a hail storm or the human phenomenon known as deja vu. Some things are better left unexplained.

Wednesday night in front of an electrifying split crowd at the Verizon Center, the Washington Wizards fought their way back against the Lakers -- tooth and nail -- upending Los Angeles 106-101.

"Hopefully this can go a long way for us in terms of that mentality of staying in a game, and playing as hard as you can," spoke a cheerful Randy Wittman following the game.

Wittman insinuated that the Wizards never caved in against the superior Lakers, and didn't go through the motions while trailing for much of the game. The details of the comeback victory are utterly perplexing.

Washington had fallen into a black hole late in the first quarter and were destined for another gloomy defeat. John Wall was lifeless -- finishing 1-for-8 with four points. Jordan Crawford was no longer the hot player he was a week ago. And the Lakers were playing like they are indeed the team to beat out West.

Trailing 76-55 with 7:22 left to play in the third quarter is where the NBA's famous slogan "Anything is possible" evolved into reality.

Nick Young, perpetually known as the Wizards worst defender, mobilized the comeback effort with hounding defense on Kobe Bryant. Although the Laker legend finished with 30 points, Bryant shot just 3-for-18 from the field in the second half with Young pestering his every move. The Wizard's impending free agent also forced a momentous steal with under a minute left and hit a driving layup two possessions later, cutting the Lakers margin to just two points after the third quarter.

"We knew we were in a little slump but we had to pick each other up and fight," said Young about leading the change in momentum. "It was an amazing atmosphere tonight."

I alluded to it a little earlier, but the Verizon Center crowd was split down the middle, with possibly a majority of the patrons donning purple and gold. Los Angeles' fervent first half had their mostly front running fans gloating throughout the arena. The Wizards shocking revival intensified the crowd noise and the unusual lineup Wittman trotted out (Shelvin Mack-Roger Mason Jr.-Young-Trevor Booker-Kevin Seraphin) was feeding off the stadium buzz.

While Young was spearheading the defensive front, Roger Mason Jr. launched his own aerial assault from downtown, drilling three three-pointers in the fourth quarter. Even though he played just 44 seconds in the first half, Mason ended up with 14 points.  

"Mase came in and really got us lifted from the three, got our momentum up," said coach Wittman.

Well, with Bryant out of the picture, at least the Lakers had Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol to lean on, right? Surprisingly, or more so heroically, Los Angeles didn't.

Kevin Seraphin (14 points, nine boards) dove headfirst into the Lakers frontcourt with his brute strength on the blocks, scoring 10 points and grabbing five key rebounds in the fourth quarter alone. The Frenchman's two-handed dunk with 1:29 left was ultimately  the icing on the cake for Washington.

"Coach felt like this would be a great matchup for me," Seraphin said. "Banging with Bynum tonight was a great challenge. Playing physical is something I like to do."

Young added "They were not ready for [Kevin] tonight." 

Finally, the only non-surprising element of the comeback was Trevor Booker's 18 points and 17 rebounds. Eight of those rebounds came in the final quarter, four of them being offensive. Booker successfully battled the best frontcourt tandem in the entire league, proving to the NBA's largest fan base why he's Washington's solid rock.

The Wizards won the scoring battle inside the paint 52-36, with two guys who were penciled in as reserves when the season began. The normal rotation of Chris Singleton, Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee saw a total of 10 seconds in the fourth quarter.

Randy Wittman deserves as much credit as the three unique performers off his bench. Wittman pushed every right substitution button on Wednesday, a skill he's really starting to understand with this team.

Will the Wizards players recognize they have an improved coach who cares much more than Flip Saunders did? Will they start to buy into Wittman's philosophy of small-ball and controlling the tempo? 

Probably not. But this win at least guarantees Wittman an interview for the head coaching position following the season.

Stat Pack

*The Lakers were held to just 37 second half points

*Nick Young finished with a career-high six assists. He also had a team-high 19 points.

*Kevin Seraphin set career high in points (14) and tied his career-high in rebounds with nine.

*Metta World Peace was 1-for-6 from the field with just three points. Is retirement in his future?

*The Wizards had 17 offensive rebounds. The Lakers had nine.

*L.A. shot 26.3 percent in the second half.

*The Lakers shot 37 free throws compared to the Wizards 19.

*Andrew Bynum had seven turnovers.

*Nick Young was 1-for-9 from downtown.

*Trevor Booker played 38 total minutes, eight more than the closest Wizards Wall and Crawford. Wittman said "I couldn't take Book out."

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