It was that easy for Wall and the Washington Wizards on Friday night, with his return to the starting lineup leading to a series of circus shots and highlight plays providing the necessary boost for a wire-to-wire114-101 victory at Verizon Center.
The hole that the Wizards dug Wall when the former No. 1 overall pick was finally deemed healthy enough to play was so massive, so intimidating that he easily could’ve blended into the misery and let the season meet a meek end. But in just eight games back, Wall has already lifted the Wizards over two barriers that have hounded the team since an 0-12 start.
The latest win — the fifth since Wall returned — meant that, at least for one night, the Wizards (10-31) are no longer the holders of the league’s worst record and are also looking down on the Charlotte Bobcats (10-32), who host the Timberwolves on Saturday night, in the Southeast Division.
“We don’t worry about that. Past is the past. We’re not going to change that,” Nene said after scoring 14 points. “We learned a lot of things in the past and now we’ve got to think about the present and future. Still a lot of games and we need wins. Play together, know each other more and create more chemistry. That’s what we need to do.”
The Wizards already appear to be well on that path after improving to 6-3 in their past nine games and winning four consecutive games at Verizon Center for the first time since April 2011. They have won their past three at home — all with Wall — over Atlanta, Orlando and Minnesota by a combined 52 points, with each game decided by double digits.
Jordan Crawford scored a team-high 19 points as the Wizards shot a season-best 57.8 percent from the field, matched their season high with 60 points in the first half and had 29 assists. The Wizards had their third game in which six different players scored in double figures, and all have come since Wall made his season debut on Jan. 12.
“We got everybody that’s supposed to be playing. Everybody is playing with confidence, getting in the groove and everybody clicking,” Crawford said. “I think we been feeling like we can win every game. We been in a lot of games. It’s just now, we’ve got so many options, so many players, the defense can’t key in on one of us and stop us.”
Coach Randy Wittman still intends to keep Wall near his 25-minute playing time restriction and he had no trouble sitting Wall after he had 14 points and five assists and the Wizards led 91-73 after three quarters. All five starters sat the entire fourth quarter, providing some much-needed rest with the Wizards hosting the Chicago Bulls on Saturday at Verizon Center.