The Wizards were reeling. The team has a disappointing record, has played poorly lately, and the players have been sniping back and forth at each other in the media with beefs both real and perceived. But the Verizon Center was filled with heavy hearts -- from the players to the front office to the fans who came out -- with the loss of Abe Pollin.
They'd have to pull this one out for Abe, wouldn't they?
As the would-be game-winning shot floated through the air, no doubt plenty of people's minds turned to spirits. Abe wouldn't let that shot go in, would he?
Clank. Off the rim it fell as the horn buzzed. The Wizards won.
Coach Flip Saunders told reporters "Mr. P probably contested that last shot as well as anybody." Last year's coach (conveniently here with the Sixers) -- and the guy who led Pollin's team to their last bit of success -- Eddie Jordan said that "Maybe Abe's spirit knocked that out."
But there's a more sanguine explanation, one provided by Brendan Haywood: "I love Mr. Pollin, but I think good defense stopped the Williams shot."
When someone dies, especially in sports, there's a tendency to attribute it to something higher. That's just human nature. It's certainly possible that Abe's presence somehow affected the game. It most certainly affected the mindset of the players and coaches to some degree; they're human too.
But Abe didn't impact that last shot. It's just a convenient and, perhaps, comforting narrative we construct after the game. If Abe really were watching over, would the Wizards have blown their big fourth-quarter lead? Would Arenas have played so sloppily at times, turning the ball over when the team needed him?
We tend to forget those smaller details as we focus on the one event or the larger picture.
In some ways, that's a good thing. And it speaks well of the power, influence, and character of Abe. We want him to be there for us. And we want to do right by him, while his memory is still fresh in the front of our minds.
So while it's a terrific thing that the Wizards won, and terrific that we can say they did it for Abe, reality isn't always that neat and tidy. But in the end, it's OK to gloss over that for a day or two; it is a tribute to a good man.