The 2011-12 campaign for Washington has been one full of disappointment, especially for John Wall – who after a solid rookie season – has been very lackluster on the court. However, on Martin Luther King’s birthday, Wall perhaps may have had a breakthrough, as he scored a career high 38 point with eight assists, along with two turnovers.
Sadly, Wall’s spectacular effort was for naught as the Wizards fell to 1-12. They were defeated by the Houston Rockets (6-7), 114-106 in a sparsely-filled Verizon Center in downtown Washington, D.C.
However, a controversial dunk by JaVale McGee in the third quarter served as a microcosm of the Wizards season so far and perhaps propelled the Rockets to victory.
McGee – who can be a human highlight reel at times during a game – decided to show off his athleticism and go for a ‘SportsCenter’ moment at the 9:32 mark of third quarter with a spectacular dunk that might have been ill-advised.
Instead of a basic dunk with his team down by four, 64-60, McGee decided to go into the lane, lob the basketball against the backboard, pass it to himself, and dunk it hard.
That in turn, got Saunders upset and helped to spark the Rockets – who would outscore the Wizards 33-21 in the period – to go yet on another run. Houston would take a 91-75 lead into the fourth quarter, and McGee’s dunk was the turning point of the game.
He would be benched in the fourth quarter. Washington would come within five points of the lead during the final period – thanks to 18 points by Wall in the frame, but the damage was done.
After the game, Saunders didn’t mince words about McGee’s dunk and correlated it to his team’s overall play.
"That's unacceptable. Maybe I'm too old school; save that for the All-Star game; we have some players that look for highlights instead of substance."
However, McGee thought differently about the play and honestly didn’t think it was that big of a deal.
Coach Flip Saunders could only watch as the Wizards lose another game. Houston defeated Washington 114-106 at the Verizon Center on January 16, 2012. Alan P. Santos/DC Sports Box
"Apparently if you get a fast break and throw it off the backboard in the third quarter and you're 1-11, you're not supposed to do stuff like that”.
He added, “I felt like I was trying to get the team hyped and trying to make a good play.”
Jordan Crawford had 17 points off the bench for the Wizards, Andray Blatche had 11 and Nick Young had 13.
For Houston, Kevin Martin had 25 points, Luis Scola had 18, and Samuel Dalembert had 20.
The Wizards started the game strong with a 28-27 lead after the opening quarter aided by a Crawford three-pointer; however, Washington fell behind in the second quarter, allowed Houston to go on a 17-4 run, and trailed at halftime, 58-54.
At the end of the day, it was yet another painful loss for the Wizards, and after the game, Wall spoke about it, despite his lofty totals.
“I just played basketball today; I made jump shots, and I just found my way getting to the basket and free throw line, but we came up short of a win.”
He added about his performance, "“I think that I’m just relaxing and playing basketball and not thinking too much. Usually, I go out there and find myself thinking about every play, so I’m starting to go out and play more freely.”
However, despite the loss, Saunders spoke about positives from Monday’s game. He knows as well that the Wizards must play better basketball.
“We are playing with a little bit better spark. As I told the guys in there, it is not getting any easier. We have to buckle down and look at the good things we did. We have to build off those things.”
McGee added, “We have to be more consistent as a team. If we stay with the energy and hustle we had in the first and fourth quarter we will get better. We can’t force the issue. We just have to play within ourselves and just go hard the whole game.”