Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 3/22/14
The Washington Wizards’ 117-107 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers was pretty much secured when Trevor Ariza tracked a rebound in front of his bench and handed the ball off to John Wall — but the fireworks were just about to begin. Before Wall could even start up the court, tempers flared after Drew Gooden got tangled with former Wizard Nick Young and ripped through his arm, leading to some pushing, shoving, unnecessary grasping and overall confusion at Staples Center. The late skirmish — which resulted in Gooden’s ejection and technical fouls for both Young and Lakers backup forward Jordan Hill — marred a win that secured Washington’s first two-game sweep of the Lakers since 2004-05, the last time the storied franchise missed the playoffs. “Pretty strange, but I guess you got to prepare for anything. Luckily, it didn’t get out of hand,” Ariza said after the Wizards improved to 36-33 and stayed a game behind Brooklyn for fifth place in the Eastern Conference. With the Wizards leading by 10 points with 2 minutes 14 seconds remaining, Young drove inside and missed a short jumper and got tied with Gooden. Gooden yanked away, fell on his backside and Young rushed to shove him in the neck. As Marcin Gortat attempted to separate them, Hill ran into Gortat and started wrestling with him until he stopped and held him in an embrace. Gortat didn’t retaliate, but didn’t understand why the incident had to escalate so quickly. “I was protecting my man, Drew Gooden,” Gortat said. “Whatever happened after that is all fake.” Before the game, Coach Randy Wittman urged his players to “get dirtier,” which implied playing with more heart, not getting tossed ejected. And for much of the game, the Wizards responded by moving the ball, being aggressive and taking advantage of a Lakers team that is on pace to finish with the franchise’s worst record since it moved to Los Angeles in 1960. With his mother, Frances Pulley, on hand to watch, Wall scored a game-high 28 points and added 14 assists as the Wizards had seven different players score in double figures. “It’s Staples Center. The lights get dark, the celebrities out there, it’s a good crowd. I just enjoy playing in L.A.,” said Wall. “We didn’t start the trip off the way we wanted to, 0-2, but we got 13 games left. We got to try to win them all. We got to try to get a better seed and go out and compete and find our way to get homecourt advantage. We can’t let games slip away.” Gortat missed the Wizards’ loss in Portland after straining his already sore back in pre-game warmups. Though he could barely sit down without grimacing and bracing himself, Gortat said he would do everything within his power to play against the Lakers. About 90 minutes before tip-off, Gortat did some stretching exercises in the middle of the locker room and then went through his warm-ups without any complications. Gortat didn’t have the best shooting night, but his presence made a huge difference on both ends of the floor. He finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds, helping to thwart a late run when he took a pass from Wall and dunked, then blocked a shot by Lakers guard Jodie Meeks (21 points). “I still felt a little stiffness but then, when I get warmed up, I start feeling better and my agility and movement was perfect,” Gortat said. Before exiting, Gooden had his first double-double (11 points, 11 rebounds) as a member of the Wizards, scoring at least 10 points for the fourth straight game and seventh time in the past nine games.
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