MEMPHIS — Little seemed as if it could upset Scott Brooks on Friday night. The Washington Wizards coach watched his team flow against the Memphis Grizzlies, dictating the pace and dominating the matchup in the backcourt. In the 102-100 win, the Wizards' fourth straight, Brooks showed few signs of concern.
Until the tight final minutes — and when he watched his franchise point guard turn into a stunt man.
Near the end of the second quarter, John Wall chased down Memphis guard Mario Chalmers to try to save a possession from bouncing out of bounds. Wall won the foot race, catching Chalmers but not quite corralling the ball. Chalmers stopped his momentum while still on the floor; Wall sped into potential danger, hurdling cameramen and the first two rows of baseline fans.
Wall stuck the landing — one of his most impressive feats on a night in which he later threw down a vicious windmill dunk and he and Bradley Beal combined for 59 points. In that moment, Brooks only could stand on the FedEx Forum sideline and shake his head.
"It wasn't a good sight for me to watch," Brooks said. "When you've got players jumping over seats, two things can happen: a player can get hurt or fans can get hurt. But that's what you have to do. You have to dive for loose balls. You've got to be aggressive, you got to do whatever it takes to win. That's John's mentality."
Later, Wall reminisced about growing up as a long jumper — the sport that helped hone his speed and leaping ability. The Wizards, however, would rather him forget his track and field days.
"Yeah, my teammates and coaches hate when I do stuff like that," Wall said, smiling.
When he wasn't producing heart palpitations on the Wizards' bench, Wall played one of his most efficient games since he returned from left knee inflammation.
On Dec. 13, Wall made his comeback against the Grizzlies in Washington. That night, Memphis slowed down the tempo, and Wall looked like a beta version of himself as the Wizards won but managed just 93 points.
Wall has played in 12 straight games since his return, and in Friday's rematch against the Grizzlies, he skipped on fast breaks, zoomed passes to open teammates and beat defenders at the rack and the perimeter for 25 points on 8-for-16 shooting and nine assists. The hazardous baseline leap and flashy dunk — in which he mouthed "I'm back" to the Wizards' bench — proved that Wall's left knee is doing just fine.
"I tried it in warmups the last game," Wall said of the windmill attempt. "Just to be able to do it again, it's been a long time. So it lets me know I'm healthy. The stuff I'm doing in rehab is paying off. Now that you're at this point, you don't stop. You just keep building on it."
Beal scored a game-high 34 points, making 9 of 18 shots as the Wizards improved to 23-16. Since the Christmas Day win in Boston, Beal has averaged more than 27 points on 51 percent shooting. In Memphis, Beal made a pair of free throws with 13.8 seconds to play after Memphis had cut the lead to one.
"I'm just confident in myself. I just want to help us win, anyway I can," Beal said. "My job is score and facilitate the ball the best that I can. When I do that, I'm confident. My game is beyond confident right now. I'm just constantly putting the work in and my teammates continue to trust me to make the right decisions on the floor."
Although the backcourt's offensive production overshadowed Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat, most of the starters — Otto Porter Jr. finished with two points and sat out the fourth quarter after his back tightened up, according to Brooks — played the final six minutes of the game and staved off a Memphis rally.
Memphis (12-27) played aggressive and held Washington to two fourth-quarter field goals. The Wizards, who led by 15 entering the fourth, had their lead trimmed to one but got a critical stop, with Morris securing a crucial rebound in the final minute.
"To win on the road shooting 39 percent means we played the defense that it takes to win on the road," Brooks said. "It wasn't a pretty game. It was a lot of struggle offensively in that fourth quarter but I thought we played with a lot of toughness and we got stops when we needed.
"We won the game because we defended tonight."
Morris continued his binge under the glass, matching a career-high with 17 rebounds to go with 12 points, but his best moments came on the defensive end. Midway in the third quarter, Morris blocked Grizzlies center Marc Gasol, then finished an athletic layup on the Wizards' next possession.
Also, Morris hit the game-sealing free throws with 3.5 seconds remaining.
Washington carried on without a starter on the floor and survived despite a late offensive drought — finding ways to win, a hallmark of a good team. However, Morris believes the Wizards haven't reached their peak.
"I feel like we can play better still," Morris said. "I still think we've got another notch, another level to go up."