The Washington Wizards (28-46) may have their sights set on ninth place in the East, but John Wall played as though the Wiz Kids were vying for a playoff spot in the team’s 90-86 win over the Chicago Bulls (40-33) at the Verizon Center.
Wall shot 8-for-17 from the field and led the Wizards’ efforts with 27 points, nine assists and three blocks. He more than doubled the second leading scorer for Washington – A.J. Price, who notched 13 points – and sank all but 2 of his 13 free throw attempts.
“The main thing I want to do is keep my turnovers down, while I’m leading my team,” Wall said after the game. “I want to get the assist and play defense. I like getting blocks. It gets our team excited and puts more enthusiasm into the game and it puts more enthusiasm in my game. I don’t think people think I can chase down and block shots, but I do.”
The Bulls started the game on a 10-2 run fueled by a Luol Deng jumper and back-to-back baskets by Carlos Boozer, who recorded 19 points and 12 assists on the night. Chicago remained in front, 24-18, into the second quarter until A.J. Price launched a three-pointer from 26 feet to pull Washington within three.
Bradley Beal sank two long jumpers to make it 35-30 with 7:35 remaining in the half, but the Bulls maintained momentum throughout and shook the Wizards from their comeback attempt.
That wasn’t quite the case in the second half, however.
Washington outscored the Bulls 28-20 in the third quarter, with help from Wall’s 12 points. Washington pulled ahead on a jumper by Emeka Okafor that made it 65-64 with 3:38 left in the quarter, and the Wizards closed out the third with a slim 70-69 lead.
Bradley Beal’s free throw represented the only point tallied for either team in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter, but the Wizards stayed just a step ahead of the Bulls.
Price’s two 27-footers put the Wizards up 79-75 with just under five and a half minutes left, and Trevor Ariza added a long jumper to make it 82-78.
With 56 seconds left, Nazr Mohammed’s two-point shot made it a new ball game with 86 points apiece, but Okafor answered with a dunk before Ariza sank two free throws to bring Washington a 90-86 win and their eighth straight victory at home.
“We want to make home a very special place and make it very hard to come in here and win,” Martell Webster said after the game. “Sometimes it’s difficult when you look into the stands against some of the top teams and see a lot more of the opponent’s jerseys than our own, but we love that. We fuel off of that and we go out there and play for each other.”
As the Wizards hope to carry their luck in Toronto against the Raptors, they’ll want to pay extra attention to Bradley Beal, who is still feeling the effects of his left ankle sprain.
“It was bothering me when I was warming up,” he said after the game. “It wasn’t as bad as when I had that fall in the second half. That’s when it really started to hurt the most. I told Coach [Wittman] in the second half that if you see me limping or doing anything that is not helping the team just take me out. And he took me out so I didn’t have a problem with that at all.”