Wizards clinch playoff berth in Wall’s return, 107-93
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Fueled by John Wall’s return, the Wizards defeated the Hornets 107-93 on Saturday afternoon to clinch a playoff berth for the fourth time in five years. The Wizards tied a franchise-high with 18 3-pointers as John Wall returned to the lineup for the first time in 27 games.
Wall, who finished the game 15 points and 14 assists, was back with no minutes restrictions. For a player who missed two months of action, Wall was agile and was able to play 33 minutes. He was athletic and his passing was as good as ever. Wall said after the game that he felt great and his conditioning from practice in recent weeks prepared him for playing in games again.
“That Ferrari is pretty good,” Scott Brooks said, referencing Wall postgame. “He's fast, he's quick. He got a lot of open shots for a lot of players. That's what he does. That's what he does at the highest level in the league.”
“I just wanted to come back and play as well as I could,” Wall said of his performance. “I know I haven’t played in two months, so try not to force the issue, just play my game, and take shots that I always have. But, also keep those guys in a great rhythm because they’ve been playing well. Just make their job a lot easier so they don’t have to waste so much energy. I think we did a great job of that tonight.”
Otto Porter Jr. shined on his bobblehead day, scoring 26 points on 10-of-15 shooting (6-10 from deep) and grabbing 11 rebounds. Porter and Bradley Beal combined for 12 of the Wizards’ 18 3-pointers. Beal scored 14 of his 22 points in the third quarter, making four triples off passes from Wall. The Wizards would put up 37 in the third quarter, anchoring the win.
Markieff Morris left the game in the first quarter due to flu-like symptoms, but Mike Scott filled in for Morris with 15 points in 22 minutes.
The Wizards opened the game on a 16-8 run, with Wall hitting his first field goal – a triple. He would finish the first half with 10 points and six assists and no turnovers. Porter came out shooting hot as well, scoring 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the first half. Tomas Satoransky also provided a spark off the bench in the first quarter, playing aggressive offensively and making three straight shots.
The Hornets shot 54.3% in the first half, but only led by one point heading into the locker room as the Wizards forced 11 turnovers for 14 points off turnovers. The Wizards had a major opportunity in the second quarter, but did not take advantage. They were in the bonus with 8:19 to go in the second quarter, but did not attempt a free throw in that timespan. Charlotte controlled the paint, outscoring the Wizards 28-16 down low. Led by Dwight Howard’s 12 points and eight rebounds, the Hornets made 14-of-19 shots in the paint in the first half.
The Wizards took over the game in the second half, starting defensively. The Wizards held the Hornets to 16-of-42 (38.1%) shooting in the second half, including only 3-of-17 from beyond the arc. Charlotte would finish the game with 17 turnovers for 21 Washington points, as Walker only had nine points by game’s end on 3-of-9 shooting with four turnovers. Wall locked in on Walker, holding him scoreless in the first half.
As aforementioned, Wizards clinched a playoff berth with a win. They don’t know who they’ll play quite yet, but to be able to officially say the Wizards are going to the postseason means a lot to a team that has gone through a lot this season.
“I'm really proud of our guys,” Brooks said postgame about clinching. “A lot of guys really chipped in and helped us get this position. A lot of injuries throughout the year…a lot of times when your star players get hurt, it's tough to win games, as you know and as you see. But our guys chipped in, helped each other out. We've had a lot of good moments, and we had some tough moments. We lost three out of four.
“Give those guys credit for the way they played,” Wall expressed after the game. “If we did not have that one five game win streak or start off very well when I was injured, we would be a team trying to fight and get into the playoffs. I give those guys a lot of credit for holding it down while I was out. We have an opportunity to be healthy and try to make a push and see what could happen.”
Brooks said Wall will not play Sunday in Chicago against Bulls, but he’s open to playing him in future back-to-backs. Satoransky will start in his place against the Bulls, which tips at 3:30pm from Chicago.