CHARLOTTE — In a rare moment when Trevor Booker was leading a fast break, John Wall sprinted to the other side of the floor and motioned for a lob. Booker isn’t known for his passing, but he delivered a pretty toss to Wall, who threw down a ferocious two-handed dunk, screamed and angrily batted the ball away.
Wall is a more skillful passer, but he later fired the ball to an unprepared Marcin Gortat that squirted through Gortat’s hands and forced him to scramble to recover it to avoid a turnover. Gortat then threw the ball back to Wall, who made a desperation three-pointer from 33 feet before the shot clock expired.
The Washington Wizards had a lot going their way on Tuesday night against the Charlotte Bobcats, and even the errors were often rewarded with positive results in a 97-83 victory at Time Warner Cable Arena. Seeking to get back on track following an embarrassing three-game homestand, the Wizards once again enjoyed the comforts of the road against a mediocre opponent.
“For some reason, when we’re on the road, we find a way to play the best way we need to play,” Wall said after the Wizards (15-17) surpassed their road win total from last season with eight. They have won five of their past six away from Verizon Center.
Bradley Beal led five Wizards in double figures with 21 points. Gortat also broke out of a mini-slump with his 11th double-double of the season as Washington snapped a three-game losing streak overall and a two-game skid in Charlotte.
Gortat was benched for the entire fourth quarter in the previous game against Golden State after a series of bad plays, but Coach Randy Wittman left him on the floor Tuesday for a team-high 38 minutes. After failing to grab at least 10 rebounds in his previous six games, Gortat bounced back and also shut down the Bobcats' best low post scorer, Al Jefferson, limiting him to just six points on 3-of-9 shooting. Jefferson shot an air ball on one jumper and nothing but backboard on another.
“It was more fun stopping him,” said Gortat, who had three blocked shots to go with his 18 points and 13 rebounds. “When you play good defense for two, three seconds, he doesn’t want to get it anymore, and I want to punch him even more.”
In one sequence in the third quarter, Gortat chased down a missed jumper by Nene, batted the ball to himself over Jefferson and made a layup that put the Wizards ahead, 66-49.
Beal had been struggling in the past three games, averaging 10.3 points on 31.8 percent shooting (14 of 44), but he rediscovered his shot by attacking the rim, swooping to the basket for layups until he put away the Bobcats in the fourth quarter. Beal scored at least 20 points for just the second time in 10 games since returning from a stress injury in his right fibula.
Rapper Nelly, a fellow St. Louis native and part-owner of the Bobcats, was sitting courtside and even asked Beal to calm down at one point.
“He was telling me, ‘Don’t do ’em like that.’ It was cool,” Beal said of Nelly, whom he has known for about a decade. “I think I was settling for way too many jump shots instead of using my body to be able to finish at the rim, and I think I did a good job of attacking and creating situations for them to be able to guard me and my teammates.”
In their previous two games against Toronto and Golden State, the Wizards got ambushed in the third quarter and were outscored by a combined 70-31. Wittman said his players had become “front-runners,” incapable of playing with intensity if their shots weren't falling.
After entering the second half with a 43-39 lead, the Wizards let the Bobcats get within two on a three-pointer by Chris Douglas-Roberts, then Wall, a North Carolina native, and Booker, a South Carolina native, combined to score 13 of the next 15 points. Booker stole the ball from Gerald Henderson (27 points) and fed Wall for the alley-oop dunk that got the Wizards going on the game-breaking 17-0 run.
“He thinking he a point guard sometimes. I told him to throw it up, and he hit it on the money,” Wall said of Booker. Wall, meantime, scored 17 points to go with eight assists and no turnovers.
With Bobcats rookie Cody Zeller guarding him, Booker got the ball in the low block on consecutive possessions and buried back-to-back jumpers. Booker scored eight of his 12 points and eventually was commanding a double team.
“I can do it, but I’m not used to it,” Booker said of getting the ball in isolation. “We have so many other players that can score, and I’m usually just an energy guy, but it felt good. I had it going.”
Charlotte (15-21) made a run in the fourth quarter to get within 88-81 when reserve Anthony Tolliver made a three-point play, but the Wizards responded with a Beal jumper and Martell Webster three-pointer that sent Charlotte fans to the exits. The Wizards matched the margin of their most lopsided road win of the season despite going just 5 of 17 from long distance.
They will travel to New Orleans on Wednesday.
“I guess we’re doing a better job on the road because we’re just focusing on everything we’re supposed to do,” Gortat said. “We stay in hotel. We are disconnected from all the stuff that’s going on at home. I guess without families, our friends, boys, and everything around. It sounds crazy, but at the end of the day, we still got to win games at home.”