Wizards continue to follow John Wall’s lead

January 14, 2013

(Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Like the way he plays basketball, John Wall‘s return to the Washington Wizards‘ lineup has helped turn the team’s fortunes quickly.

In two games since the point guard has come back after missing the first 33 games with a stress injury to his left patella, the Wizards are undefeated, have won by an average of nearly 20 points and appear completely re-energized heading into a West Coast road trip of five games in nine days.

Monday night’s 120-91 victory over the Orlando Magic, in which Wall had 12 points and six assists in 19 minutes 49 seconds, was without question the Wizards’ most complete game this season and included six players in double figures. That’s a first this season, along with other superlatives such as most points, largest margin of victory and best shooting percentage (56.1).

Wall “gives us that extra gear,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “And now guys have to run harder. You see bigs running harder because they know if they get to the rim, they’re going to receive a pass.”

Forward Jan Vesely was among the front-court players who benefited the most from Wall’s energy. The No. 6 overall pick in 2011 matched season highs with 10 points and seven rebounds and in one stretch of the second quarter scored eight of the Wizards’ 11 points.

During that scoring burst, Vesely had two dunks and collected two offensive rebounds. He made 5 of 7 shots overall and did not commit a turnover.

“I played with him last year, and he stayed focused” when he was injured, Vesely said of Wall. “He couldn’t wait to get back on the court. He’s playing good, and I can’t wait to keep playing games with him.”

Among the highlights for Wall was a third-quarter pass to Bradley Beal, who dunked with 59 seconds left to give the Wizards a 92-75 lead. Washington had allowed a 19-point lead to dwindle to six by halftime but scored a season-high 37 points in the third quarter to reclaim a comfortable advantage.

Wall closed third quarter with a nasty crossover dribble that left a helpless Ish Smith laying on the court, twisted in knots. Wall then delivered a pass to Kevin Seraphin for an easy basket, and the Wizards were on their way to a third straight win for the first time since the end of last season.

“I’m not going to say I’m that important,” Wall said. “I just feel like I’m a big key [that was] missing to the piece. I’m just trying to help my teammates out. It’s just at times we play hard, and we’ve been in a lot of games. We just didn’t have anybody to close four quarters out or get us easy points or make the job easier.”

Gene Wang is a sports reporter covering multiple beats, including Navy football, the Capitals, Wizards, Nationals, women’s basketball, auto racing, boxing and golf. He also covers Fantasy Football.
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Gene Wang | January 14, 2013