WASHINGTON — The Wizards closed out the Lakers 116-108 at home Thursday night to keep their sweltering hot streak alive, extending their current winning streak to six games, and their home win streak to 16, for their 13th win in their last 15 games.
The Verizon Center crowd, though, had its typical smattering of opposing fans, and they made their presence felt with the game tied at 91 with nine minutes remaining in regulation. John Wall made sure to remind them were they were, taking over the game with a dominant 18-point fourth quarter.
Bradley Beal, after the game, made some remarks about the crowd: “I’m sick of that, too. That’s terrible. It felt like we were on the road today, but that’s for another time. But John did a terrific job of pulling us through in the end.”
Wall, as he so often does, used those opposing fans in his own building as motivation to flip the switch: “Just seeing the crowd get up and make big Lakers chants. That kind of just made me mad so I did what I had to do to try to get a win for us.”
“Our fans were still here,” Wall clarified later. “They were cheering — you heard some boos when they were doing that, but, you know, the Lakers are a big-time organization. They’ve won a lot of championships and have a fan base. It’s kind of like the Celtics. They have one of those fan bases, one of those legendary teams, so we understand it. We’ve dealt with it before when Kobe was playing, but I’m just glad that we have a a winning streak going here. Our fans have been amazing and they cheered for us when we needed them the most.”
Hours before the game was even played, Steve Buckhantz offered some timely remarks about building hometown loyalty at Verizon Center.
“You have to do it (win) on a consistent basis,” the Wizards play-by-play announced told Chad Dukes on 106.7 The Fan. “Now, look, I’m old enough to say that I covered the team when they won the championship. I was in my last year of college, but I was working in TV and I got to come up here from Harrisonburg and cover the team when they won the title, and I covered them regularly, because I’ve been a fan my whole life, and I’ve never heard a building louder than the Capital Centre in those days. So the fans are here, even though this is a transient market, and we all know that.”
“But you have to give them a winner on a consistent basis,” he said. “Remember, years and years ago when the Capitals were here and they didn’t play well, nobody went to their games either. Now you can’t get a ticket because they’re good on a consistent basis. They have a superstar, they have great players and they win on a consistent basis and we’ve become accustomed to that.
“When you get accustomed to winning, and the team is able to give you a consistent winner, then you show up and you don’t root for the Celtics, and you don’t root for the Knicks, and you don’t root for the Lakers, you root for the home team.”
“And we’re starting to see that now. They’re getting a little taste of it now,” he said. “The crowds are better. They’re more enthusiastic. They’re cheering. They’re getting into the games. They’re cheering more than just for a chicken sandwich.”
“And we’re starting to see that, but you’ve got to do it on a consistent basis,” he reinforced. “If you get to the playoffs this year and the next year you crap out and you don’t get there, or you don’t get there for two years or whatever, it leaves a bad taste. You’ve got to do it on a consistent basis.
“And you’re right — it’s a basketball town, even though it’s such a transient city. There are enough people here that love hoops that will come out and support and follow this team if they understand that they’re gonna get a consistent, competitive, winning team.”