The Washington Wizards improved to 6-28 Saturday in a 93-83 victory over the visiting Atlanta Hawks. Washington’s starting backcourt of Bradley Beal and A.J. Price co-led the Wizards with 16 points a piece, while forward Martell Webster added 15 points from the wing (12 in the first half). John Wall sealed the deal in his season debut return (knee) with 6 of his 14 points coming in the fourth quarter, as he helped Washington secure their first win streak of the season.
“These guys have got to be smiling with some of the shots that they’re going to get in transition when John pushes the ball up,” said Wizards Head Coach Randy Wittman after the game. “There were a number of them tonight that were either kicked out to Martell (Webster), Bradley (Beal), or to a big down low. It’s going to help all those guys in transition. We want to be a team that’s up and down. We don’t want to be a team that walks it, and John now provides us that.”
The Wizards got off to a fast start even with Wall on the bench, as Nene and Webster combined for 12 of Washington’s 27 first quarter points by pounding inside. Wall added just under five minutes off the bench and scored 3 of those points on 3-for-4 from the free throw line, as he continued the attack. The Hawks would find trouble stopping Wall, who looked very close to his top speed.
“I think I just got my legs,” said Wall, regarding his fourth quarter takeover. “I played seven minutes straight, that’s what I needed. My teammates trusted me and coaches gave me the ball and told me to make plays, and basically I did that.”
With four and a half minutes left in the fourth, Wall started to push the ball inside. He scored two quick layups then Nene found Kevin Seraphin inside for a hook shot. That 6-0 run put the Wizards ahead 89-77 with just over three minutes to play. The Hawks were all but defeated at that point. Wall made sure with 2:10 left to play as he added another tough layup, scoring his 6 fourth quarter points in the span of two and a half minutes. The energy paid off.
“John, he’s just awesome,” said Beal postgame. Two of Wall’s team-high 4 assists went to Beal, on a night in which Washington’s fastbreak claimed an assist or two. “The impact he had on the game, he brings so much energy and enthusiasm and he plays hard. He’s really helping us down the stretch in the fourth quarter. He really makes things easier. He takes the pressure off you, you don’t necessarily have to care for yourself all the time. He draws the defense into him. He showed he can score or he can make a nice pass, or a jump shot.”
Webster, who did most of his damage in the fourth (as Trevor Ariza locked down on Kyle Korver down the stretch), wasn’t as surprised regarding Wall after seeing him in practice. “The kid hasn’t lost a beat,” said Webster. “He’s ferocious. I was telling him, ‘You know man, you kind of just got back. Take it easy.’ He was like, ‘I don’t know how to do that.’ The kid is bred to go and he does that.”
The Wall-led Wizards avoided a 4-0 season series sweep with their victory over the visiting Hawks. Jeff Teague led the Hawks in defeat with a game-high 19 points. Next up for Washington is the Orlando Magic (Monday, 7:00 p.m. ET, CSN), a team which the Wizards beat last month. Can Washington do it without Jordan Crawford (ankle), or will they be full force?