Wall dominates third quarter as Wizards snap Hornets' streak
By STEPHEN WHYNO
WASHINGTON (AP) John Wall took coach Scott Brooks' defensive message to heart and decided to get aggressive on the offensive end.
It worked out quite well for the Washington Wizards.
Wall scored 14 of his 23 points and dished out six of his 13 assists in a dominant third quarter, and Washington hurt Charlotte's playoff chances with a 118-111 victory over the Hornets on Tuesday night.
Washington returned from a five-game trip and stopped a three-game slide. Coupled with Toronto's loss at Indiana, the Wizards (47-31) also moved into a tie with the Raptors for third place in the Eastern Conference.
Wall led the way.
"He was outstanding," Brooks said. "He's one of the best players in the league and when he attacks and gets to the rim and he kicks out the 3s - we made 17 3s, a lot of them were his passes."
Wall helped the Wizards overcome a 37-point performance by Kemba Walker, who went cold with the rest of his teammates. After making 26 of its first 42 shots, Charlotte was 6 for its next 18 as the game slipped away.
"It was all their defense," Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. "It was all started with their defense, which is their game, and they converted it into easy baskets at the other end of the floor. They turned up the intensity and we had a couple of just ridiculous turnovers that changed the momentum of the game and that was the difference."
The Hornets (36-42) had a chance to move within a half-game of Miami for the eighth spot in the East but let it slip away. Now they're in a precarious spot, with Walker saying they "just got to win" their final four games.
Washington improved its playoff positioning with its 17th victory this season when trailing by double digits. Brooks said the Wizards had "a very candid conversation" about defense at halftime.
"Play defense," Wall said of the halftime message. "You want to quit it or you want to play it? It was simple."
SMITH FROM LONG RANGE
Wizards big man Jason Smith scored a season-high 17 points on a career-high five 3-pointers. He had four 3s in a game last week.
"I'm feeling pretty comfortable, but it's not me," Smith said, crediting his teammates for driving and kicking the ball to him. "They're all attacking the rim, and I'm just sitting there licking my chops."
WALKER NEEDS HELP
Walker was the best player on the court most of the night. He was 6 for 14 from 3-point range and 13 for 25 from the field overall.
But Clifford wanted to see better defense from the rest of the Hornets.
"He needs help obviously," he said. "The turnovers and the physicality you've got to match it. Even if it's not a natural thing you can't pick and choose."
EWING ON THE MOVE
The Hornets played their first game without associate coach Patrick Ewing, who took the head job at Georgetown on Monday. Clifford said Ewing had a special ability to get through to Walker, Al Jefferson, Yao Ming and Dwight Howard.
"The one thing that I've learned from him as much as anything as being a primary scorer in this league for so many years, he helps Kemba a lot because Patrick as a player got different coverages," Clifford said. "I just think those are things that not a lot of people have."
Hornets: Lost for just the fourth time in 14 games against Southeast Division rivals. ... Marvin Williams was 0 of 6 from the field after shooting 47.9 percent in his previous 16 games.
Wizards: Reached 30 home victories for the first time since the 1988-89 Bullets. ... Bradley Beal had 19 points. ... The Wizards improved to 24-3 when shooting over 50 percent.
Hornets: Continue their playoff push at home against the Miami Heat on Wednesday.
Wizards: Visit the New York Knicks on Thursday.
Updated April 4, 2017