If the Washington Wizards had any chance to steal a victory, Friday at Verizon Center might have been the night. The Wizards were hosting the Los Angeles Lakers, who were on the second night of a back-to-back, after an embarrassing 116-107 loss to the New York Knicks in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score.
An annoyed Kobe Bryant, in his post game press conference in New York on Thursday, half-jokingly expressed his frustrations with the recent play of his team, saying he wished they had the Washington Generals on their schedule.
It was a comment a few NBA analysts couldn’t pass up, joking that the Lakers were in fact playing the Generals the very next night, or rather, the closest thing to it in the NBA, the league-worst Washington Wizards.
The Wizards had their chances against a tired and under-performing Lakers team and played them tight in the first half, but didn’t take advantage of those opportunities in the second, and lost 102-96.
“For the most part I liked what we did,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “ We forced Kobe to take 29 shots to get 30 points. I thought there were some questionable calls down the stretch, but those things tend to go their way.”
Bryant led all scorers with 30 points, Jodie Meeks had 24, and Dwight Howard had 12 points and 14 rebounds.
“He didn’t score 30,000 points for nothing,” Martell Webster said of Bryant. “A high-caliber player like that who gets a lot of repetitions up, [you have to] contain him and hope that he takes a bad contested jump shot. You want to keep him in front of you and have him shoot over a hand every time he shoots the ball.”
For the Wizards, it was a stellar night for Cartier Martin, who scored a season-high 21 to lead the Wizards, including 5 of 11 from three-point range. Nene and Webster both had 17. The Lakers shot 45.1 percent with the Wizards just slightly behind them at 43.3. But the Lakers had nearly all the calls go their way, and got to the free throw line 28 times to the Wizards 20.
“We’ve got to make shots at pivotal times,” Martin said. “We’ve got to play two halves of good basketball.”
The Wizards were down by just three at halftime, 58-55, but their offense stalled in the third quarter, and the Lakers outscored them 25-14. They reversed the trend in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Lakers 27-19 in the final quarter, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the lack of calls, and a few ill-conceived shots.
“We played good defense, they just made tough shots,” Martin said. But despite being under .500 (10-14) and struggling by their standards, the Lakers nearly equaled their season average of 101.7 points, the seventh-highest scoring average in the league. The Wizards went just slightly above their season average, 90.4, the lowest in the league.
“In order for us to take the next step and get to the next level, we have to understand time and score situation,” Webster said. “You can’t force opportunities. Opportunities are something that presents themselves. We did that a couple of times tonight.”
The Wizards are now 3-17 and have another difficult task on Saturday – a rematch with the Heat in Miami. The Wizards pulled off a stunning upset over the Heat on Dec. 4., and the Heat will no doubt be looking for a little payback.
“We’ve got to focus on Miami,” said Webster, who was already looking to put the Lakers loss behind him. “We’ve got them tomorrow. We’ve got to try to focus and go get a win.”