John Wall continued his hot-shooting ways tonight, scoring a season-high 29 points, dishing 9 assists and leading the Washington Wizards to a 96-87 win at home over the New Orleans Hortnets. The win is Washington's fourth straight at home and improves the team record 22-42, 17-17 at home. The Wizards are now 17-14 with John Wall in the lineup.
Wall started early, hitting a three-pointer early, one of three that he would attempt and hit during the game. Nevertheless, it was the Hornets who held a 30-26 lead after one quarter thanks to a hot start by rookie Anthony Davis, like Wall, a first overall pick in the NBA Draft. Davis played well whenever he was on the court, but foul trouble limited him to 16 minutes. In that time he scored 16 points and grabbed 7 rebounds.
Guards Eric Gordon and hometown hero Greivis Vasquez helped keep the Hornets in the game, with Gordon scoring 20 points on 8-17 shooting and Vasquez putting in 18 on 9-18 shooting. Vasquez also flirted with a triple-double, handing out 9 assists and pulling down 8 rebounds.
The Wizards got little from their starting big men, with Emeka Okafor and Nene combining for only 13 points and 4 rebounds. Fortunately, Kevin Seraphin got out of Head Coach Randy Wittman's dog house and into the game for 18 minutes of quality play. Seraphin blocked 3 shots and scored 10 points on 4-6 shooting. He only grabbed one rebound, but it was progress for Seraphin.
Cartier Martin also helped off the bench, putting up 10 points and 3 rebounds in only 11 minutes. It was good to see Martin, who has been on the injury shelf pretty much the entire season, back out on the floor and stroking the bucket from deep. Martin hit both 3-pointers he took and made up for a very poor shooting night by Trevor Ariza [2-10 from the floor] against his old team, the Hornets. The Wizards will have a good chance to post a good record in the final 18 games of the regular season if Martin stays healthy and has his old touch from the outside.
Joining John Wall as starters who got it done for the Wizards tonight were Martell Webster and Garrett Temple. Webster hit 4 3-pointers, becoming the first player in franchise history to hit 4 or more in 4 straight games. Webster scored 18 points on 14 shots and grabbed 4 rebounds. Temple, starting again in place of the injured Bradley Beal, played a game-high 45 minutes, filling in at both guard positions. Temple scored 10 points on 4 of 5 shooting and also dished 5 assists.
The key tonight, though was Wall. The Wizards held a 50-47 lead before Eric Gordon hit a 3-pointer to send the game into halftime tied at 50. John Wall took over in the third quarter, scoring 14 of his 29 points in those twelve minutes. What impressed me the most was the confidence Wall shot with, particularly from the outside. “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.” However, he did not neglect his traditional offensive game, pushing the ball up the court at breakneck speed as often as possible, in keeping with Coach Wittman's edict to play an up tempo game whenever possible.
Ryan Anderson got into the act in the third quarter, keeping the Hornets close with his shooting, but Trevor Booker chased him around the court and harassed him into 1-10 shooting on 3-pointers, a major factor in Washington's victory.
Guards Bradley Beal and AJ Price sat out again due to injury. It was the 6th straight game missed for Beal and second straight for Price. Forwards Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton continued to get inconsistent playing time, which amounted to none at all tonight.
The Wizards are playing surprisingly well without Bradley Beal, the team's best shooter, and the reason is that John Wall has upped his game, shooting better than ever before, without giving up on his essential nature of attacking the basket.
“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,” said Coach Wittman. “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.”