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Wall breaks out as Wizards beat Hornets

The SportsXchange

WASHINGTON -- John Wall's jump shot has been modified, scrutinized and criticized, but if he keeps shooting like did Friday, he'll only have to worry about it being idolized.

Appearing extremely comfortable on an array of mid-range and long-distance jumpers, Wall scored a season-high 29 points to carry the Washington Wizards to a 96-87 victory over the New Orleans Hornets.

For a player not known, and often knocked, for his outside range, Wall's 12-of-15 effort from the field against the Hornets was eye-opening.

"I think when I make my first couple (of shots), you get a good rhythm and a good confidence, and when you play with a lot of confidence, you play at a high level," Wall said.

Wall even tied a career-high with three 3-pointers, easily the weakest aspect of his game.

"You look at Jason Kidd -- he didn't start making 3s until late in his career," said Wall, a 23 percent career shooter from behind the arc. "As long as I can make the mid-range and improve my game and help my teammates out, that's all that matters to me."

Wall made his presence felt in the third quarter, as Washington broke a 50-50 halftime tie thanks to 14 points in the period from Wall, who grew more confident with each made shot. After draining a jumper to make it 70-62 with 1:40 left in the period, the third-year guard ran up the court nodding his head.

"I felt that John Wall was disrespected tonight," New Orleans coach Monty Williams said. "We just let him shoot shots like he couldn't make them and he made us pay."

During his last three games, Wall is averaging 26.3 points, 11.0 assists and 5.3 rebounds. Wall's previous season-high was 27 points against Cleveland on March 12.

"I've kind of sensed it these last couple of games," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "He's still a work-in-progress, but it's much more ... the shot is much more repetition. The same shot over and over again. That's been the main thing. It's a repetition thing now. He's been really diligent in doing that."

After a solid first half in which he scored 12 points, Hornets rookie Anthony Davis picked up his fourth foul with 11:17 remaining in the third quarter. New Orleans struggled to find the easy baskets it did in the first half, when the Hornets had 26 points in the paint.

"He has to learn how to play without fouling," Williams said. "He has to learn to be smarter when he has three and four fouls. But that's a learning experience for him."

After 14 first-half lead changes, New Orleans fell behind on the first possession of the second half and never regained the advantage, despite the efforts of Eric Gordon, who scored 20 points, and Greivis Vasquez, who had 18 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.

The Hornets closed to within 83-77 midway through the fourth quarter, but Washington scored eight straight points, capped by a spinning layup from Wall to make it 91-77 with 4:09 remaining.

Martell Webster added 18 points for the Wizards, who beat New Orleans for the first time at home since March 2, 2008.

About the only blemish on Wall's night was the fact that his alma mater, the University of Kentucky, got beat in the SEC Tournament by Vanderbilt.

"I never heard of Vanderbilt!" he shouted with mock indignation after the game.

NOTES: Williams went to nearby Potomac High School in Oxon Hill, Md., making the Hornets' first trip to D.C. in more than two years somewhat of a homecoming. "I'm sure there will be a lot of people here that I don't even know about," he said. "This is where I cut my teeth." ... Washington guards Bradley Beal (ankle) and A.J. Price (groin) did not play. Beal has now missed six straight games, while Price has missed two straight. ... With the Wizards hosting Phoenix on Saturday, Wittman wasn't concerned about limiting minutes for his veteran big man Nene. "If I got players that want to play, they're going to play," Wittman said. ... Hornets forward Ryan Anderson returned to action after missing his first game of the season Wednesday against Brooklyn with a viral infection.
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