Basketball is a game of inches right?
As expected in an opener, both teams looked jittery from the get-go. The Wizards turned the ball over on their first three possessions and the two teams combined to shoot 2-8 from the field to start this one. John Wall knocked the cobwebs off for the Wizards as he hit a three pointer for the team’s first bucket of the season. The Wizards new highflying offense knocked down their next five shots to storm out to an early 18-9 lead.
The Magic answered with a mini-run of their own punctuated by a monstrous put-back dunk by Aaron Gordon to trim the lead down to three. The game started loosening up as the teams traded easy buckets and three pointers towards the end of the quarter. It was starting to look like both teams would crack 110 points tonight.
In a pre-Halloween scare, Bradley Beal went up for a floater and landed very hard on the floor. Beal would lie still on the hardwood for a few moments but would end up being ok. Even with the scare, the Wizards led 31-29 after one with Wall and Beal combining for 20 points in the period.
Elfrid Payton hit a pull-up jumper at the 10:30 mark to start the second quarter as the Magic took back the lead, 35-33. Shots weren’t falling for the Wizards’ run-and-gun offense to start the second quarter; and the super small lineup of Wall, Sessions, and Neal in the backcourt looks like it will take some time to click.
The Wizards got some help off the bench from microwave scorer Gary Neal who got cooking right away as he knocked down 3 of his first 4 shots to provide a bit of a scoring spark for the Wizards as they regained the lead 44-43 at the 5-minute mark.
Even though the Wizards relinquished a whopping 26 points in the paint, they still held the lead 53-51 at halftime.
Like the start of the game, the Wizards started the second half on a 6-0 run looking like they would stretch the lead to double figures. Not so fast. The Wizards offense reverted back to the one we got used to seeing post All-Star break last season. Bad shots, unforced turnovers, it was all on display as the Wizards would shoot 4-17 for the third quarter. Fortunately, The Magic’s offense wasn’t much better as they only outscored the Wizards 16-12 in the quarter but held the lead, 67-65 entering the fourth quarter.
The Magic’s momentum carried over into the fourth quarter as they stretched the lead out to 78-70 on a scrappy putback layup from Victor Oladipo. The Wizards kept clawing away and the tied the game at 78 when John Wall stole a lazy pass from Oladipo and took it the length of the court for his patented behind the back layup.
Wall and Beal carried the Wiz in the fourth quarter scoring 19 of the team’s 23 points, none bigger than when John Wall came off a Gortat screen floated to the open space in paint and knocked down a teardrop to give the Wizards an 88-87 lead with just 12 seconds to play.
The drama was far from over. The Magic had one last chance to take the lead on a final shot which bounced around and sat still on the rim for what seemed like five minutes before Bradley Beal knocked it away. Beal was called for goaltending but after review, the refs determined the ball was out of the cylinder.
The refs gave the ball back to the Magic who found Nikola Vucevic for a desperation shot but it was way off. What a way to start the season. The Wizards sneak out of Orlando with the W, 88-87.
Notes: After starting 5-7 from three-point range, the Wizards shot 2-21 from long range for the remainder of the game. The Wizards were aggressive in attacking the hole and getting to the free-throw line, but were only able to make 15-25 from the charity stripe. The Wizards go to Milwaukee next where they’ll take on the Bucks Friday night.