Kevin Seraphin has no fear of going up against Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard. In fact, Seraphin has said repeatedly he likes the challenge. But with Howard out of the lineup due to back spasms, Seraphin really didn't mind the much easier assignment of guarding Ryan Anderson and Glen Davis.
Asked to explain how much he's improved this year, Seraphin smiled and shrugged.
"I don't know how to explain it," he said. "My confidence is really high. My teammates give me confidence."
Seraphin had 14 points by the end of the first half and a career-high 24 for the game, along with 13 rebounds, as the Wizards pulled off a 93-85 victory over the Magic on Tuesday night at Verizon Center.
Wizards coach Randy Wittman expects Seraphin to keep it all in perspective.
"The kid's playing with confidence, he's growing every night," Wittman said. "I told him I'm going to stay on him. I don't want him to get satisfied with where he's at. He's got a lot of room to still improve, and I want him to stay hungry."
Seraphin is now the team's starting center while Nene, along with forward Trevor Booker, are both day-to-day with plantar fasciitis in their left foot. With just eight games left in the season, it could be next year before either player returns to the court.
Even after coming off of a 28-point win against the Charlotte Bobcats a night earlier, the second night of a back-to-back often lends itself to a slow start. The Wizards responded in kind, scoring just 18 points in the first quarter before getting their offense together in the second and tying the game at 41.
The Magic had the opposite problem, as they got off to a fast start with 29 points in the first quarter, then scored just 12 in the second.
In the second half, the trend continued, as the Wizards shooting percentage steadily improved, while the Magic's continued to fall. The Wizards finished the game shooting 50 percent from the field, while the Magic shot 36.6 percent.
John Wall had no trouble bouncing back from a two-point effort against the Bobcats, even though he still had what Wittman called an impressive game, with 12 assists and just one turnover. Tuesday, he scored 15 points and added seven assists.
"We're just playing hard, that's the main thing," Wall said. "We play hard and we do it defensively. We're holding teams under 100 points. That's hard to do that in this league."
Cartier Martin (12 points) is also providing exactly the kind of offensive spark the Wizards were hoping for when they signed him to his second 10-day contract.
"My job is just to come in and provide energy and do what they ask me to do," Martin said. "Shoot the ball when I'm open and defend. Just coming in this league and playing with confidence."
Wittman has also come to rely on his bench players, keeping them on the court during crucial fourth-quarter stretches. They haven't let him down.
"We might have to go to all 10-day contracts next year," Wittman joked. "Some of our guys might not like to hear that. They've been great."
But it was Jordan Crawford who put the finishing touch on the game by connecting on a 3-pointer with just over a minute to play, after missing his first four from beyond the arc. Crawford finished with 21 points.
"As long as players keep playing with confidence, we can do a lot of things," Crawford said.
As Crawford hit the game's final two shots, he was asked why a smile didn't come across his face. He answered with a shrug.
"I don't never really smile when I get buckets. I've been doing that since I popped out. [This is] nothing new to me."
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