Saturday, March 23, 2013

Wizards Drown Lakers

On December 14th, the Washington Wizards fell to the Los Angeles Lakers by a score of 102-96 at the Verizon Center. That was before both John Wall and Trevor Ariza had returned from their respective injuries. Kobe Bryant led all scorers that night with 30 points. Tonight, the Wizards made their second visit to the Staples Center on the season, having lost to the Clippers 94-87 on January 19th during their first West-coast swing of 2013.

Washington was again plagued by injuries coming into Friday night's contest. Bradley Beal remained sidelined with a sprained left ankle, the same one that had kept him out five games to start the month. Beal had suffered his latest injury in an attempt to block Shannon Brown's fast-break layup late in Wednesday night's victory over Phoenix. Washington was also without Emeka Okafor, who missed his second straight game with the flu, and A.J. Price, who continues to be sidelined with a sore right groin.

Meanwhile, the Lakers, who had been struggling with injuries all season, saw the return of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol to the lineup. Bryant had missed the last two games with a sprained ankle. Gasol, on the other hand, had missed the last twenty games with a torn plantar fascia. For Los Angeles, a team still very much fighting for its playoff lives, it was the first time that Gasol, Bryant, Dwight Howard, and Steve Nash were on the court together since January 30th. Antawn Jamison would leave tonight's game with a sprained right wrist, and did not return.

The Wizards trailed 57-41 at the half, but managed to come back and take the lead with 8:52 left in the game on a Trevor Ariza driving layup. Nene put Washington up for good on a bank hook shot with 1:23 remaining. Later, after two John Wall free throws that put the Wizards up by 3 with 1.5 seconds to go, Kobe, who had just drained an off-balance triple on the previous L.A. possession to cut the lead to 1, had one last chance to tie the game, but missed on a three-point attempt, and Washington held on for a 103-100 victory over the Lakers.

Wizards forward Nene, left, is congratulated by teammate John Wall during Washington's 103-100 victory over the Lakers (Photo by USA TODAY Sports)
The Wizards were led by former Laker Trevor Ariza with 25 points. John Wall added 24 points and a career-high 16 assists.

Kobe Bryant paced the Lakers with 21 points and 11 assists in his return from injury. Dwight Howard had a double-double, adding 20 points and 15 rebounds in the loss.

Washington will continue its West-coast trip tomorrow in Oakland, as they take on the Golden State Warriors.