Wall helps Wizards snap losing streak
(TSX / STATS) -- WASHINGTON -- With the Washington Wizards returning home from a lengthy road trip riding a three-game losing streak, coach Scott Brooks said his squad needed its spirit back.
He repeated some version of that claim at halftime Tuesday night with Washington trailing the Charlotte Hornets by double figures. From there, the pattern changed.
John Wall had 23 points, 13 assists and six steals as the Wizards roared back with a 118-111 victory over Charlotte.
Bradley Beal scored 19 points for the Wizards, who have their highest single-season win total since going 54-28 in 1978-79. Washington (47-31) avoided its first four-game losing streak of the season and moved into a tie with Toronto for third place in the Eastern Conference.
Washington rallied in the second half after a listless start, though Wall downplayed Brooks' halftime speech.
"Nothing much. Play defense. You want to quit it or you want to play it. it was simple," the All-Star guard said, who had 14 points and six assists in the momentum-altering third quarter.
Jason Smith, who scored 17 points and sank a career-high five 3-pointers, offered a different perspective.
"Coach lit a fire under us," said the 7-footer, who turned into a 3-point threat this season, his ninth in the league.
Kemba Walker scored 37 points for the Hornets (36-42), who are two games behind the Chicago Bulls and the Indiana Pacers in the race for the East's final two playoff spots. The Miami Heat are also 1 1/2 games ahead of Charlotte.
"They made a strong push," Walker said of the Wizards. "They just out played us in the second half."
The Pacers defeated the Raptors 108-90 on Wednesday. That result help Washington -- though Toronto owns the tiebreaker -- but the Wizards recognize they must help themselves with better play defensively considering only four games remain before the postseason begins.
"We had a very candid conversation at halftime," Brooks said. "Give our guys the credit, they responded in that third quarter. "That's what we have to do. The game is about defense. ... When we commit to that defense and contesting shots, turning it over and converting to the other end with our speed and our quickness and our ability to find open shooters in transition, that's when we're at our best."
Charlotte had won three in a row and seven of 10, but its playoff hopes took a hit with another loss to Washington.
"Like I just told them we probably have to win out now to have a chance to get in," Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. "We need everyone's best effort."
The Wizards clinched the season series 3-1 after returning home following a 2-3 road trip including Sunday's 139-115 loss at Golden State.
Charlotte shot 60.5 percent from the field for a 63-51 halftime lead, but Washington roared back with a 36-18 third quarter to enter the fourth up 87-81.
The surge continued and Kelly Oubre's 3-pointer gave the Wizards their largest lead at 103-90 with 6:43 remaining. Frank Kaminsky's two 3-pointers pulled Charlotte with 108-104, but Oubre and Otto Porter countered from their own pair of shots from beyond the arc, putting Washington up 114-106 with 36.8 seconds remaining.
The Wizards finished 17 of 34 on 3-pointers. Oubre had 15 points and Markieff Morris scored 14 for Washington before the crowd of 18,614.
Charlotte's recent surge began with a 98-93 home victory over Washington on March 18, moving them back into the playoff picture.
Marco Belinelli had 16 for the Hornets and Nicolas Batum scored 13 points. Charlotte finished shooting 51.3 percent while Washington nearly matched at 51.2 percent
Smith, who did not play Sunday, barely averaged four 3-pointers over his first eight seasons. In his first campaign with Washington, he has evolved into a deep threat, shooting 35 of 70 after entering the season with 34 for his career.
"I'm feeling pretty comfortable, but yet again it's not me," said Smith, who then ticked off names of teammates feeding him for open looks. "They're all attacking the rim and I'm just sitting there licking my chops."
NOTES: Washington improved to 30-10 at home, joining Golden State, San Antonio and Cleveland as the only teams with at least 30 home wins on the season. ... Hornets F Marvin Williams went 0-of-6 from the field, finishing with two points in 29 minutes. ... Washington plays at New York on Thursday. The Wizards are 3-0 against the Knicks this season, including 113-110 at New York on Jan. 19. ...The Hornets host the Heat on Wednesday with a chance to clinch the season series. Miami won the previous 108-101 on March 8 after Charlotte claimed the first two meetings.
Updated April 4, 2017
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