Down 21 at halftime, Wizards rally past Blazers in OT, go to 4-0 on trip
portland, ore. — Boos rained down, and so did foreign objects from the occupants of the Moda Center seats, but the Washington Wizards were too busy celebrating the commotion they had created.
In one of their most entertaining games of the season, the Wizards completed their largest comeback of the campaign and defeated the Portland Trail Blazers, 125-124, with a buzzer-beating shot in overtime by Markieff Morris.
During the team’s final possession, Bradley Beal found Morris open on the baseline. Morris calmly stepped into the shot and made it with four-tenths of a second remaining. Shortly thereafter, the Trail Blazers complained Morris’s step actually had come from out of bounds.
On the Moda Center scoreboard, the final moment was replayed over and over. The sold-out crowd of 19,482 —
almost all passionate Blazers fans — was convinced Morris stepped out. The referees did not review the play, and the Wizards walked off the court as the bad guys — a role they have come to own after rallying for a second straight night to win from a double-digit deficit.
Morris finished with 13 points, while John Wall led all scorers with 39, followed by Beal’s 26 and Otto Porter Jr.’s 18.
Before the game, Coach Scott Brooks had to be reminded that the Wizards had won four consecutive back-to-back sets.
“I have trouble remembering who we played two nights ago,” Brooks joked, “let alone what’s our record in back-to-backs.”
This unrelenting stretch, four road games in five nights, may have caused memory loss — at least for the sake of pregame punchlines — but Brooks refused to use it as an excuse.
On the same night the Golden State Warriors faced the San Antonio Spurs in a nationally televised game, the schedule became the story. The Warriors rested four regular starters as Coach Steve Kerr snubbed his nose at the prime-time slot, choosing instead to sit his primary players in the midst of playing seven of the past eight games on the road. San Antonio won, 107-85. In Portland, the Wizards’ same starting five opened the game and returned intact after halftime even while in a 21-point hole. By that point, all starters had played under 20 minutes — because of the careful rotational planning by Brooks.
Though Brooks was mindful of keeping players fresh, he also expected a good showing despite the Wizards’ overtime win in Sacramento the night before.
“We all have 82 games to play and coach, and you have to do your best each game. You can’t give into the schedule,” Brooks said before the game, warning that playing hard should be the expectation. “If you don’t, you’re going to be embarrassed. There’s going to be nights when you don’t have it, and I get that. You have 82 games, and some teams are just going to have a hot game. You have to at least give yourself a chance.”
The Wizards did exactly that. Despite the double-digit deficit, the Wizards starters showed up in the third quarter. Beal powered past a silent start to the game as he made 6 of 7 shots, including a trio of three-pointers. Wall still fearlessly attacked the paint for his one of his two baskets and later bounced a delicious outlet pass to Porter (he had five assists in the quarter) during the team’s 22-10 run.
Then in the fourth quarter while trailing 106-97, the Wizards scored 15 straight to retake the lead with one minute remaining in regulation. However, the Blazers showed their never-say-die mentality while erasing the Wizards’ six-point edge to force overtime.
By the extra period, Washington and Portland engaged in an entertaining tit-for-tat. Al-Farouq Aminu swished a corner three for Portland’s first basket in overtime, but Porter showed how he can step out to the three-point range just as well. Then after Damian Lillard nailed a jumper, Wall matched with a clutch shot of his own and tied the score at 117.
Lillard wasn’t done, and his driving layup with 35 seconds remaining pulled the Blazers ahead by three points.
With 31 seconds remaining, Bradley Beal, who made 50 percent of his shots (9 for 18), had a chance to even the score after getting fouled during his threepoint attempt. He made two free throws but missed the first one.
The Wizards trailed by one, but fittingly, the night came down to one last play. After a defensive stop, the Wizards gathered the ball, and Brooks had to run past the half-court line to grab an official’s attention and call a timeout with 6.8 seconds remaining. From that huddle, the Wizards developed a successful shot but controversial ending.
Ian Mahinmi, right, and the Wizards trailed 70-49 at halftime. John Wall and Bradley Beal combined for 65 points in the overtime win.