Wizards’ Daniel Gafford on and-1: ‘It got me fired up’

Daniel Gafford fired up | NBAE

Russell Westbrook stepped to the free-throw line with exactly one second left in overtime and knocked down two free throws as the Washington Wizards went on to beat the New Orleans Pelicans 117-115.

Westbrook, who had 10 of Washington’s 12 points in the extra period, was fouled on the pull-up jumper attempt by Zion Williamson at the top of the free-throw line circle. That ended up being Williamson’s sixth foul in the game, which came the possession after he threw an errant pass to Raul Neto.

“Last thing I want to do is fail my teammates,” Williamson said. “In the moment, that’s what it felt like.. It felt like failure. You learn from games like this so you can be more prepared the next time.”

The Pelicans were up by seven with 2:15 left in the fourth quarter, but the momentum quickly shifted in the Wizards’ favor, as Daniel Gafford cut to the basket and got the pass inside to put in the layup plus the foul.

On the other end, Gafford came up huge again, as he blocked Brandon Ingram, who was driving down the middle with a head of steam, at the rim to prevent what seemed like was going to be a thunderous dunk by Ingram.

“I’ve gotta protect home,” Gafford said. “I can’t let nothing come inside and if it does, I can’t let it go down easy. I’m gonna have to foul you or block the shot, it’s as simple as that.”

A pair of free throws from Bradley Beal and a transition layup from Westbrook would help Washington tie the game up at 105-105 with a little over a minute left in regulation.

No team scored within the final minute of regulation, which included a potential game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer by Beal, but Gafford once again came through for the Wizards, as he met Williamson in transition to deny the easy layup attempt with a little over 30 seconds left in the first 48 minutes of play.

Gafford finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and four blocks in 26 minutes off the bench, as he credited that and-1 bucket for fueling him down the stretch.

“It got me fired up,” Gafford told FortyEightMinutes and other media members. “It got me locked in because I missed like three before that. When I got that and-1 it kinda got me back in my groove.” 

Westbrook fell just one assist shy of his seventh consecutive triple-double, but his stat line of 36 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists was still very impressive.. unless you ask his head coach.

“I thought he was selfish all night long,” Scott Brooks jokingly said in the postgame presser. “I don’t like the way he played. Should’ve had another triple-double. Only had nine assists.”

Beal added 30 points and six assists despite going 0-for-9 on his 3-point attempts, but at least he gave us a glimpse at what his secondary career could look like in his postgame interview.

To all the people who plan on auditioning for a play on Broadway – look out! The kid from St. Louis is coming for you!

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