Thunder 106 Wizards 105
November 10, 2013
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
It was all so beautiful at one moment. The stage was set. The lead was vast. The spotlight was burning on Bradley Beal, who was reciprocating its heat with a smoking trigger finger en route to a new milestone. And the tables were seemingly turning on the Oklahoma City Thunder on their home floor, a place where they had never lost to the visiting Washington Wizards.
Beal torched the arena for a career-high 34 points on six 3-pointers, including several crucial buckets late in the 4th quarter and overtime. After an Al Harrington 3-pointer with about 3 and a half to play, the Wizards had a 10-point lead. Within the subsequent two minutes, the lead shrunk down to 1 and the Wizards no longer had their starting power forward.
Nene, who had been exchanging jaw flaps with Russell Westbrook throughout the game, was ejected late in the 4th quarter along with Westbrook after the two got into a lunchroom shove match. That seemed to have set the tone for Kevin Durant and the Thunder who cruised on offense the rest of the way and took the game 106-105 in overtime.
Spew what you want. Churn out as many excuses as you can manage. Bitch about the “blown” hacking call on John Wall at the end of overtime. Bitch about Randy Wittman’s decision to sit Bradley Beal on the bench during the late stretch of the 4th quarter when the Thunder, well, thundered their way back into the game. But for me personally, I couldn’t have generated a better explanation for last night’s dissipation more profoundly than Al Harrington in the locker room after the game: “Forget all that. We missed 13 free throws.”
Amen, dude. The Wizards simply buried an opportunity to pull off a stunner in OKC last night by squandering their free throw attempts. And, sure, I’m not denying the questionability of several other occurrences outside of the charity stripe, but botched opportunities at the free throw line will ALWAYS remain the most daunting factor in a team’s demise, and last night was a perfect illustration of that.
A tone setting win at the start of this mini-road trip slipped away from the Wizards and unfortunately for us fans, the term “moral victory” won’t save our aching hearts anymore. This team has proven its resilience and toughness, and more importantly, its talent. A late-game lead like last night’s are now meant to be maintained. These types of wins are expected now, regardless of the strength of opponent. This one hurt.