WASHINGTON — The Washington Wizards moved above .500 for the first time in more than four years Monday night, accomplishing the feat on their eighth try this season by pulling away in the second half to beat the Portland Trail Blazers 100-90.
John Wall scored 22 points, and Trevor Ariza added 20 for the Wizards, who hadn’t had a winning record since beating the New Jersey Nets to improve to 2-1 on Halloween in 2009. Washington committed six turnovers while forcing 16 from Portland, and Wall and Co. didn’t look back after Kevin Seraphin led a 12-0 run that put the Wizards up by 17 early in the fourth quarter.
“Finally,” guard Bradley Beal said after the final whistle. “It took us a long time.”
Damian Lillard scored 25 points, and LaMarcus Aldridge had 20 to lead the Trail Blazers, who have lost four straight road games.
No one on the current Wizards roster was on the team when it was last above .500. They had lost this season at 0-0, 9-9, 14-14, 19-19, 20-20, 21-21 and 22-22, and the hurdle became such a bugaboo that players starting declaring the subject taboo when reporters asked about it. Coach Randy Wittman at one point cautioned against thoughts that “all of a sudden fairy dust is going to fall on us if we get over .500.”
The Wizards are 120-236 since that Oct. 31 victory 51 months ago, a .336 winning percentage better than only Minnesota and Sacramento over that span. The streak of futility fell just a few days shy of spanning an entire Winter Olympiad.
Another way to put the quest to move above mediocrity in perspective: The Trail Blazers could lose their next 20 in a row — and still be comfortably above .500.
But the Wizards have now topped two of the West’s top teams in back-to-back games, having taken care of Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday. The Trail Blazers arrived averaging a league-best 108.3 points and shot 61 percent in the first half, but Portland was 6 for 17 from the field with seven turnovers in the decisive third quarter as Washington’s defense again held its own against a more celebrated lineup.
Seraphin went 7 for 10 from the field and scored a season-high 19 points, making his mark by scoring the last four points of the third quarter and the first four points of the fourth. He followed a turnaround hook shot with a jumper to put the Wizards ahead 86-69.
The Trail Blazers cut the deficit to eight on a pair of free throws by Lillard with 3:31 to play, but no one on either team scored for the next two minutes. Aldridge broke the drought with a layup, but Nene answered with a jumper to give the Wizards a 98-90 lead with 53 seconds remaining.
Wall pumped his right arm and smiled broadly as he dribbled out the clock, and the fans gave their finally-winning team a standing ovation.
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