WASHINGTON – It was Game 6 in the second round of the NBA playoffs, and Paul Pierce nailed a three pointer at the buzzer, giving the Washington Wizards a chance to equalize the game against the Atlanta Hawks, and potentially save their season.
But as the Verizon Center exploded with excitement, referees called off the shot after a review of the play. And with that call, the game ended with a final score of 94-91. The Wizards headed back to the locker room full of disappointment as fans left the arena for the last time that season, and the Hawks advanced to the Eastern Conference finals.
The Wizards returned to the NBA this season strong, stepping on to their home floor at the Verizon Center in front of fans for their first regular home game of the season on Saturday night with a 2-0 start, and hoping to stretch it to 3-0 — something that hasn’t happened since the 2005-2006 season.
“The last two games were very exciting,” season-ticket holder Cody Rosenfield, 23, of Los Angeles and former George Washington University student, said before the game. “Bradley Beal went off, so I hope we can watch Bradley and John Wall totally take over the game and destroy the Knicks, the way that they should.”
But Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks had their own agenda. They won the game 117-110, ending what would have been an eight-game winning streak over the Knicks for the Wizards.
Anthony finished the game with a season-high 37 points and four assists. He told reporters after the game that he had it circled on his calendar following remarks by Washington’s Jared Dudley in May, calling Anthony the most overrated player in the NBA.
Anthony’s strong performance is ultimately what spoiled the home opener for many Wizards fans.
“We just took a big loss tonight, to the New York Knicks,” Billy Coreas, 25, inspector for Guardian Fire Protection Service of Montgomery County, Md., said. “It hurts. It hurts right here,” he said, pointing toward his chest. “We’re going to see the Knicks in the playoffs again, and we’re going to take care of them.”
But the loss of a 3-0 start did not seem to rattle too many fans. For some D.C. sports fans, the Wizards are the only team giving them faith.
“The Redskins, I’ll go bald messing with them, my hair will fall out,” Trevaen Byrd, 31, a songwriter and producer from Washington, said. He was not alone.
“The Wizards are much better than the Redskins,” said John Garrett, 50, a business owner from Washington, who owns season-tickets for both teams. “I’m looking forward for them to go on a little further this year.”
Clad in Halloween costumes that ranged from bearded wizards to Waldo, fans held up signs that read “Knicks are up against a Wall,” and “Wallstar for MVP,” displaying their optimism for their point guard who, along with Bradley Beal, is likely to be part of one of the more powerful backcourt duos in the NBA.
“Paul Pierce was a good addition for us last year as a veteran, but you know, the NBA is changing so much,” Byrd said. “You got to be athletic and young, and we got a lot of youth out there. Bradley Beal got better. He should get most-improved player this year, and John Wall should be going for the MVP this season.”
“John Wall and Bradley Beal run this town,” Solly Shapiro, 23, a student from Gaithersburg, Md., said after the game. “I mean, we’re D.C. sports – we always have great seats and always find some way to lose it. But the Caps actually look amazing this year, so Ovi could lead us like crazy. And having John Wall and Bradley Beal lead us? That’ll make KD come here,” Shapiro said, referring to Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant, who will be a free agent next summer, and who Wizard’s owner Ted Leonsis has his eye on.
The Wizards next home game will be Wednesday against the San Antonio Spurs. Faithful fans like Byrd will return to the Verizon Center to watch.
“The city is excited about Wizards basketball this season,” Byrd said. “I’ll be here for every home game.”
Reach reporter Heather Khalifa at [email protected] or 202-408-1488. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.
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