The Washington Wizards kicked off the New Year in defeat Tuesday in a 103-94 loss to Vince Carter and the Dallas Mavericks. The 14-year pro proved he still has something left in the tank as he led the Mavs with a game-high 23 points. Wizards rookie Bradley Beal trailed Carter with a season-high tying 22 points in defeat.
"We just played against a bunch of veteran guys, some who have even won a championship," said Wizards Head Coach Randy Wittman after the game. "They were a wounded bunch coming into the game, but they didn't let that stop them from battling. This was a big game for them. Vince (Carter) came in with a veteran approach, and added much needed scoring for the team. The Mavericks stayed focused and rallied, and ultimately got themselves the win."
Carter--who punctuated the night with a nasty slam dunk in the final minute and change of the fourth quarter--wasn't on the 2011 NBA Championship which featured franchise forward Dirk Nowitzki. He is, however, looking to be a future Hall of Fame candidate.
Nowitzki chipped in 11 points off the bench for the Mavs in his fifth appearance of the season as he continues to rehab his right knee. Wizards center-forward Kevin Seraphin chipped in 10 points of his own off the bench, but Washington's bigs had trouble getting involved.
"I think we gave it a game. We gave it a great first start," said Wizards starting center Nene postgame. "They had experience, they have good players. We wake up the beast (Dirk Nowitzki), and the beast starts making shots. Vince Carter looked like the young Vince Carter. I think they (Dallas) did a great job including the post, they had great defense, they forced us to pass the ball to the side and we lost."
The return of Dirk hasn't been all that beastly for Dallas as of late, but he contributed 6 of his 11 points in a pivotal third quarter in which the Mavs out scored the Wizards 35-19. Guard Shelvin Mack led Washington with 5 points in the period, indicative of a team fielding a less than one hundred percent healthy Jordan Crawford (ankle).
Crawford ended up with 9 points off the bench Tuesday after missing a single game Sunday in Chicago. He averaged 21.8 points over the six games prior and the Wizards were 1-5 over that span. The 6-4 combo guard isn't going to do it on his own and Washington is in need of some kind of return of their own.
Trevor Ariza (calf) is getting there. "No contact drills" might end up being Washington's motto this season. John Wall (knee) is still in progress. Trevor Booker (knee), A.J. Price (hand). Crawford himself was questionable heading into Tuesday's home game. The 4-25 Wizards will have a long, long season. The good news, however, is Wall will most likely return after the NBA All-Star Break mid-February. The bittersweet return will at least give fans a glimpse of Wall and Beal in action together, at last. Until then, roll that beautiful training camp footage.
Wall, who was supposed to miss Washington's first 10 games, has missed the entire 29 game season thus far. The Wizards will hope for an early return as they press on. Next up? A road game tonight against the Indiana Pacers (7:00 p.m. ET, CSN), followed by the return of former Wizards forward Andray Blatche Friday, as the Verizon Center gets ready for the debut of the Brooklyn Nets (7:00 p.m. ET, CSN).
McGee, Nuggets end Clippers win streak
Speaking of former Wizards, JaVale McGee and the Denver Nuggets topped the Los Angeles Clippers 92-78 Tuesday, which ended a 17-game winning streak for the other team out of L.A. The Clippers are now 25-7 on the season, while the Nuggets improved to 18-15. The Los Angeles Lakers? 15-16. The Lakers have won the Pacific Division the last five years in a row. Can the Clips hold on?