Wizards vs. Magic: Washington sets several season highs in routing Orlando for third straight win
By Gene Wang,
With less than one minute to play in the third quarter, John Wall had the ball in his hands on a fast break and spotted Washington Wizards teammate Bradley Beal racing down the court. Wall delivered the pass on a line and Beal elevated, caught the ball and dunked to thunderous applause at Verizon Center.
The crowd witnessed the team’s first three-game winning streak since the end of last season and its highest point total and largest margin of victory this season.
The Wizards (7-28) also had six players reach double figures for the first time this season, including team highs of 19 points and 11 rebounds from center Emeka Okafor and 17 points from Beal on 7-for-10 shooting.
All but one of Washington’s 11 players on the active roster scored, and the Wizards came within six points of having nine players hit double figures. The Wizards shot a season-high 56 percent from the field, made 7 of 11 three pointers (64 percent) and had a season-high 32 assists on 46 field goals.
Their 29 fast-break points also set a season standard.
“That’s just us having fun. I mean, that’s the best basketball we’ve played all year team-wise,” said Beal, who was named the NBA’s rookie of the month for December. “Everybody really stepped up. Everybody made shots, played great defense, rebounded the ball well. It was just a great team effort overall.”
Point guard A.J. Price had a season-high 18 points and six assists with just one turnover and Wall added 12 points and six assists in 20 minutes as a reserve in his second game.
Wall had missed the first 33 games with a stress injury in his left patella until returning for Saturday’s 93-83 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.
Another indication the Wizards are playing with renewed vigor since Wall’s comeback was overcoming a rally that whittled a 19-point lead in the second quarter to six by halftime.
Washington responded with 37 points in the third quarter, its most in any quarter this season, and regained a comfortable advantage thanks to contributions from starters and reserves.
“I didn’t see the glazed-over . . . ‘here we go again,’ ” look from his players, Wizards Coach Randy Wittman said. “It showed right away in the third quarter. We immediately built it up to 10, 12, 13 right away, which is a good sign.”
Wall and Price combined for just three turnovers and added three steals, and each got to the foul line a game-high six times. Together they made all but one free throw as the Wizards sank 21 of 25 in all, nearly 10 percentage points higher than their season average.
The Wizards played most of the first half with energy, crisp passing and overall confidence from having their No. 1 overall pick back in the fold. They built a six-point lead after the first quarter and grew it to 11 when Price made a three-pointer with 8 minutes 47 seconds left until intermission.
Jan Vesely (10 points, 5-of-7 shooting, seven rebounds, four assists) took over from there; he scored eight of Washington’s next 11 points. Two of those baskets came on dunks, and the No. 6 overall pick in the 2011 draft scored another field goal when he collected an offensive rebound, missed the follow and got his own rebound before putting it back.
Trevor Ariza added a three-pointer for a 51-34 margin with 4:27 left in the half, and consecutive field goals from Beal expanded the lead to 55-36.
Washington also led by that margin with 1:52 to go, but the Magic, which lost for the 11th time in 12 games, made the proceedings competitive again briefly thanks to a 13-0 flurry to end the half.
Jameer Nelson (team-high 19 points, game-high 12 assists) sank two three-pointers for the Magic (13-24) during the run, which began with J.J. Redick’s three-pointer, and the Wizards allowed a dunk at the buzzer by Josh McRoberts when Wall turned over the ball.
“My group in like the last minute and forty-five seconds, we did a bad job of closing out the quarter, and they got back into the game,” Wall said. “But our coaches said we’ve got to do a better job closing out quarters, and we just stayed with the same game plan we had, and the first group did a great job of getting the lead back.”
Wizards note: Beal has not been mentioned in trade discussions with the Memphis Grizzlies involving Rudy Gay, according to Mark Bartlestein, the agent for the Wizards’ No. 3 overall pick.
The Memphis Commercial-Appeal reported Monday the Grizzlies had entertained an offer that would include Beal, who accepted his Eastern Conference rookie of the month award shortly before tip-off.
“I’ve talked to both teams,” Bartelstein said. “There is absolutely nothing to it. The Wizards have made it very clear that they are not moving Brad Beal.”
Michael Lee contributed to this report.
Good night 120 Points for the Wizards last night. Their previous season high was 113 (in 2 OTs). 29 Last night’s margin of victory. Previous high was 10. 56.1 Wizards’ shooting percentage. Previous best was 48.1. 3 Current win streak, equal to most wins in any month.
More on the Wizards: Box score: Wizards 120, Magic 91 Video: Wall crosses up Magic’s Smith With Wall’s return, Wizards are buzzing Beal’s agent denies report of trade offer to Memphis