With each jump shot that found the bottom of the net, the hand slaps got harder and the bounce in his step got bigger. On most nights, John Wall’s speed, not his shooting stroke, has paced the Washington Wizards’ offensive attack. Friday night, the third-year guard found his touch from the outside, scoring 14 points in the third quarter en route to a season-high 29 to lead the Wizards past the New Orleans Hornets at Verizon Center, 96-87.
Wall tied a career-high with three three-pointers as the Wizards won their fourth straight at home, completing a two-game season sweep of New Orleans (22-44).
While Wall used his typical array of crossovers and quickness to find space, it was the way he finished those moves that had him nodding his head and the Wizards (22-42) surging ahead. With the teams knotted at 52 near the start of the third period, Wall pulled up for a jumper near the elbow that swished through the net, sparking the Wizards to a 12-4 run.
“I was feeling pretty good, able to knock down my shot and playing at a different pace to where the coaches want our team to play at,” Wall said. “If you play with a lot of confidence, you play at a high level.”
Wall wasn’t the only hot shooter for the Wizards on Friday. Washington shot 45 percent from the three-point line, with Martell Webster (18 points) making at least four three-pointers for the fourth straight contest.
“It’s been a team effort this past month and I’m really excited the way we’re playing,” Webster said. “[Wall’s] been shooting the thing lately. If he can keep that consistent, it’s going to make him a very versatile point guard, very dangerous.”
But for as well as the Wizards shot overall (50 percent from the field), it didn’t match the Hornets’ early efficiency. During a 30-point first quarter, New Orleans shot at a 60 percent clip with Anthony Davis (16 points) getting loose in the paint for several dunks and putbacks.
Eric Gordon carried the Hornets thereafter, scoring eight of his team-high 20 points to offset Wall’s three first-half three-pointers and keep the score knotted at 50 at intermission.
The third quarter brought a better defensive effort for the Wizards. Trevor Booker stepped outside his usual post in the paint to chase sharpshooting Ryan Anderson around the perimeter, harassing the Hornets forward into a 1-for-10 showing from the three-point line.
“They play a little bit different than anybody we’ve played in a while. I thought the last three quarters from a defensive standpoint really won the game for us,” Wizards Coach Randy Wittman said. “I thought Trevor did a heck of a job . . . making [Anderson] take tough shots.”
As the Wizards clamped down defensively, Wall took control on the other end of the floor. A stepback fadeaway just inside the three-point line was followed two minutes later by a strong coast-to-coast drive for a tough layup that put the Wizards up, 72-62, with 1 minute 1 second remaining in the third.
As New Orleans pushed for a late rally, Washington’s bench kept its opponent at bay. Kevin Seraphin used his wide body to pour in 10 points, including a monstrous dunk off a Wall assist that stretched the lead to 13 midway through the fourth period.
Wall finished one assist short of recording his third straight double-double, continuing a stretch of play that has the Wizards 17-14 since his return and competing at a tempo that pleases his coach.
“These last few games are as good as he’s done in terms of keeping us in a pace that we have to play at,” Wittman said. “With these last few games, I told him, ‘Take these home and study these.’ This is a way, from a pace standpoint that we have to play on offense.’ I thought he’s played with great confidence.”