The ball bounced on the rim seven times, glanced off the backboard and bounced on the orange metal six more times as the seconds ticked off the Washington Wizards’ 88-87 triumph. The anticipation from sold-out Amway Center escalated as the ball hung on the rim and a chance to keep a fresh season unblemished hung in the balance. Finally, two arms, wrapped in different shades of blue sleeves, appeared in the picture. One tapped the orange leather ever so slightly as it sat on the cylinder and rolled off. The referees halted the sequence to declare the guilty arm had been navy, that of Wizards guard Bradley Beal, and counted the basket for the Orlando Magic, granting the hosts a one-point lead. Protests from the Wizards’ bench ensued. A replay review followed, and officials at the NBA’s replay center in Secaucus, N.J., overturned the goaltending, resulting in essentially a non-call. The ball would go back to Orlando with 3.5 seconds remaining. The Magic was given one last opportunity. But the Wizards, staying true to their defense-first identity despite all the attention their overhauled offense has drawn, completed their stingy effort with another stop. This time, Marcin Gortat kept Vucevic in front of him and forced a contested jumper that bounced off the rim and ignited a relieved celebration from the visitors, who had trailed by eight points with seven minutes remaining. “It’s hard to win in this league,” Wizards Coach Randy Wittman said. “So you take it whether you think you played good, played bad. Every win is a good win.” The night began with a moment of silence for former Wizards coach Flip Saunders, a close friend of Wittman. Saunders died of cancer at age 60 on Sunday. Three days later, on Wittman’s 56th birthday, Washington earned its first season-opening triumph since Saunders won in his Wizards debut in 2009. The event, save for the result, was not what the Wizards had envisioned. They had spent their preseason introducing, installing and honing their rebooted offense, a fast pace-and-space operation designed to capitalize their young back court’s talents. They discovered the fourth step, sustaining the style, remains an obstacle. After a 31-point first-quarter barrage, fatigue surfaced. They shot 39.3 percent from the floor, 25 percent from three-point range and 60 percent from the free throw line. They matched their 17 assists with 17 turnovers and went more than four minutes without a point in the third quarter.
Wizards hold off Magic, 88-87, in an opener not lacking for drama
Washington Post | Oct 29