The same arena that rocked to ”M-V-P!” for Kobe Bryant in the first half was bellowing ”Beat L.A.!” in the final minute.
It’s amazing the fans weren’t speechless over what they were witnessing. It wasn’t merely that the Los Angeles Lakers had blown a 21-point, second-half lead to the lowly Washington Wizards – it was the fact that the Lakers had essentially lost the game to a bunch of Wizards second-stringers.
It truly is almost surreal what happened in the fourth quarter of the Wizards’ 106-101 victory Wednesday. Kevin Seraphin scored 10 of his career-high 14 points. Roger Mason hit three huge 3-pointers. Nick Young, who usually passes the ball only with great reluctance, had four of his career-high six assists. Trevor Booker, the only starter to see significant minutes, grabbed eight of his career-high 17 rebounds.
Also, Kobe Bryant, who seemingly could do whatever he wanted in the first half, went 1 for 10 in the final period to finish with an unfulfilling 30 points.
Conclusion: It’s safe to say that the Lakers thought they had it won when they were leading 76-55 in the third quarter.
”I was out there kind of loafing around and having a good time,” said Andrew Bynum, who scored 19 points but committed seven turnovers. ”They played up, got the home crowd into it, and they were able to hit shots.”
The Wizards will take it. They hadn’t beaten the Lakers since 2006, a streak of nine straight losses. The same team that was called ”unprofessional” by coach Randy Wittman after a 20-point loss to Golden State on Monday somehow pulled off a minor miracle.
”When our backs are against the wall,” Young said, ”you can’t do nothing but go up.”
Young finished with 19 points, and those half-dozen assists were indeed out of the norm for someone with only 38 in his first 36 games, causing him to joke that he had become ”a complete player.” Booker scored 18 points, and Seraphin shot 7 for 8 and tied his career high with nine rebounds. Mason finished with 14 points, and John Wall had nine assists to help make up for four points on 1-for-8 shooting. The bench tallied 55 points.
”A lot of us,” Mason said, ”are hungry to play.”
Pau Gasol added 19 points and 15 rebounds for the Lakers, who dropped both ends of a road back-to-back. Bryant said the team ”played a little tired” after an overtime loss at Detroit the night before, and on Wednesday he wasn’t saying much of anything.
How surprised were you that you were up 21 and you lost? ”Shocked.”
How disappointed? ”Very.”
”I’ll keep it to one word,” Bryant then said.
The Wizards were their usual disjointed selves well into the third quarter, mixing dunks with misfired alley-oops and other failed attempts at flash. Jordan Crawford and Young were both 0 for 4 from 3-point range in the first half, and Wall didn’t have a point until his dunk with 3:19 remaining in the third.
Young had a classic Wizards blooper in the second quarter, going up for an uncontested dunk only to have the ball slip out of his hands and fly over the backboard and into the rows of fans seated behind the basket.
The deficit was 21 when the Wizards started on a 26-7 run that pulled them within two at the end of the third quarter. Mason started the fourth by hitting a pair of 3s, and Seraphin twice gave Washington back the lead after the Lakers had rallied.
Seraphin’s dunk – Washington’s 10th of the game – and Young’s jumper put the underdogs ahead 104-99 with 43 seconds left. After a dunk by Gasol, Booker grabbed an offensive rebound on Wall’s missed jumper to keep the Lakers at bay. The Wizards made two free throws in the final 15 seconds to help seal the improbable win.
”Our mindset right now to play on the road,” Lakers coach Mike Brown said, ”is not what it should be.”
Notes: Bryant wore a clear mask to protect his broken nose. He had switched from a black one midgame the night before because it wasn’t comfortable. … Bryant is 12 points shy of 29,000 for his career. … The Lakers wrap up their three-game road trip at Minnesota on Friday. … Wizards F Rashard Lewis missed his fifth straight game with a sore left knee.