Down 21 at half­time, Wizards rally past Blaz­ers in OT, go to 4-0 on trip

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY CAN­DACE BUCK­NER

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.

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