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John Wall dominates during return as Washington Wizards clinch playoff spot

* Recap: Wizards 107, Hornets 93

All systems are go in Washington, finally, because John Wall is back in uniform and on the floor for the Wizards.

The All-Star point guard, who had knee surgery two months ago, makes the Wizards whole again. Although Washington was a respectable 15-12 without Wall in the lineup, the playoff hopes of the Wizards took a dramatic turn for the better with him fully healthy. The Wizards become a more unpredictable team with an extra weapon, and perhaps their best weapon, next to Bradley Beal and an assorted cast that could give Washington a chance to advance at least into May.

With injuries either hurting playoff-bound teams or short-changing them momentarily, the Wizards are finally free of that stigma and not a moment too soon, with only 10 days remaining on the regular season schedule. Candace Buckner of the Washington Post filed this report on Wall’s return to the Wizards:

The Washington Wizards’ locker room was nearly empty, players hustling away for a charter flight, when majority owner Ted Leonsis strolled in.

Leonsis does not ordinarily enter the players’ space following games, but Saturday felt like one of the few sublime moments of the season. The Wizards’ 107-93 win over the Charlotte Hornets secured a playoff berth, and, for the first time in two months, the franchise point guard had played in an NBA game. So, Leonsis wanted to wait by the corner locker along with the gathering of reporters and be the first to say the words.

“Welcome back, John Wall,” Leonsis said as the five-time all-star emerged from the trainer’s room wearing only a towel and carrying the hopes of the Wizards’ postseason on his shoulders.

On Saturday afternoon, Wall returned from an extended rehabilitation for his surgically repaired left knee and looked strikingly similar to the player who left the lineup in late January. Although Wall’s shot didn’t fall with accuracy (6 for 17), he finished with a double-double of 15 points and 14 assists and shined brighter than his all-star counterpart, Kemba Walker (seven points, two assists).

“I just wanted to come back and play as well as I could,” Wall said. “I haven’t played in two months, try not to force the issue, just play my game and take shots that I always had but also keep those guys in a great rhythm because they’ve been playing well, or make their job a lot easier so they don’t have to waste so much energy.”

Nah,” Wall responded when asked whether he felt butterflies before his first game in more than eight weeks. “I’ve been doing this for too long.”

Wall might have been unmoved, but others relished in the excitement.

“I’m as excited as any game we’ve had,” Brooks said before the matchup.