Wake-up call: Gooden's play exceeds expectations

Wake-up call: Gooden's play exceeds expectations
March 9, 2014, 6:00 am
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The major weakness for the Wizards, the bench, quickly has turned into a strength. For the second game in a row -- and this time with Martell Webster back from injury -- the reserves set the table for what became a 28-point lead and ended in a seven-point victory at the Milwaukee Bucks.

It begs the question about backup center Kevin Seraphin, who missed his sixth game in a row with a sore right knee, and exactly how he fits in coach Randy Wittman's rotation now. Drew Gooden had 13 points on 6-for-9 shooting, five rebounds, one assist, one steal and two blocks in just 17 minutes Saturday. 

Winners of eight of their last nine games, and five in a row on the road, the Wizards (33-29) have the NBA's best record since the All-Star break at 8-2 going into Monday's game at the Miami Heat. 

The reserves did their part vs. Milwaukee:

  • With the score tied at 15 in the first quarter, Webster entered at 5:33. His three-pointer made it 23-19 and he sank another jump shot.
  • Al Harrington entered at 3:54 and registered a steal and an assist to Trevor Ariza for a layup.
  • Andre Miller entered with 53 seconds left and hit the final shot so the Wizards could go into the second quarter ahead 36-27. 
  • Wizards went on an 18-6 run, with Miller, the only starter Bradley Beal, Webster, Harrington and Gooden. The lead would grow to 73-41.
  • Milwaukee made a move after halftime, cutting the deficit to single digits early in the fourth but Gooden had a putback on a miss by Miller and Webster made a three-pointer to push the lead to 90-80.  Then the starters, led by John Wall and Beal, were able to close it out. 

The four-man core that comprise the Wizards' reserves were responsible for 39 of the 114 points and eight of the 25 assists. The way Gooden is playing could make it a tough call for Wittman if Seraphin is able to play anytime soon. 

Seraphin can be an offensive force but if he's not scoring he's not always effective. Gooden, who is playing on his second 10-day contract, looks to be a good bet to stick around when the Wizards have to decide whether to keep him March 18. He can hit the mid-range shot, is more active defensively and even made a three-pointer Saturday. 

Still, this is a good problem to have for Washington particularly with Nene (left knee) still out. As long as Gooden can play this way, there's no need to rush anyone back. As Wittman showed when Nene went out in December with foot soreness and they started to win with him coming off the bench in limited minutes while Trevor Booker started, he'll stick with the hot hand.