Wall returns to lead Wizards to victory over HawksBy Benjamin Standig, The Sports Xchange | The SportsXchange – Sat, Jan 12, 2013 11:30 PM EST
WASHINGTON -- It took longer than expected, but John Wall is back. Just in case not everybody on the court was already aware of this, the electric point guard excitedly let them know. Wall scored 14 points in his season debut, Bradley Beal and A.J. Price each had 16 points and the Washington Wizards won consecutive games for the first time this season with a 93-83 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night at the Verizon Center. The No. 1 overall selection in the 2010 NBA Draft, Wall missed the opening 33 games with a left knee injury. The point guard entered the game late in the first quarter, played 21 minutes including the final six as the Wizards (6-28) pulled away for their first win in four games over the Hawks this season. In that stretch, Wall repeatedly said on the court, to either friend or foe "I'm back." "That's what I was saying the whole time," Wall explained after his first game since April 26. "To anybody. I was just happy to be playing basketball. Whomever was in my way, that's what I was saying." Wall, who made five of 11 field-goal attempts and had four assists, was not the only one energized by his return. Martell Webster scored 15 points, Emeka Okafor had 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Wizards, who upset Oklahoma City 101-99 on Monday. Washington out-rebounded the Hawks 51-38, finished with a 46-22 points-in-the-paint advantage and led after every quarter. "It gave me a big lift so I know it had to give our guys," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "These guys have got to be smiling on some of the shots they are going to get in transition with John pushing the ball up. A number of them tonight." Atlanta (21-15) lost for the fourth time in five games, but had won six straight over Washington, including three games this season. "When you get one of your best players back, I think you play with a little more juice. They did that tonight," said Jeff Teague, who led Atlanta with 19 points. Al Horford had 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Hawks, who finished 7-for-24 on 3-point attempts and shot 38.5 percent from the floor. "We launch 24 3s, we won't win another road game," Hawks coach Larry Drew said. "We have to understand that when you play on the road, you have to be selective with your shots and you've got to be able to execute your offense." Back on Sept. 27, the Wizards announced that Wall, one of only three players in the NBA last season to average at least 16 points and eight assists, would miss approximately eight weeks. It turned out to be much longer. Wall only recently returned to full-contact practice. Asked about his emotions upon returning to the lineup, Wall said, "It was a big day for me, especially since I was just nervous just thinking how would I feel, how would I go throughout the game after just going through practice. My home boys-slash-brothers at home were joking, happy the whole day. I'm just trying to stay calm and take a nap." Without the face of the franchise and one of the NBA's top point guards, Washington opened the season 0-12 and currently own the league's worst record. Wall entered for the first time with 4:56 left in the first quarter, receiving a standing ovation from the announced crowd of 15,331. Minutes later, he deftly fed Beal, Washington's newest rookie star, for a thunderous dunk ending the first quarter and a jumper starting the second, giving Washington a 29-17 lead. Wall's first basket put the Wizards ahead 31-20. The Hawks countered with a 16-2 spurt -- the bulk coming after Wall left -- but Washington led 51-50 at halftime. Capping the third-quarter scoring, Wall's foul-line dribble crossed over Devin Harris and he was fouled banking home a driving layup. His free throw gave the Wizards a 73-66 lead. Back on the court midway through the fourth quarter after the Hawks pulled within six points, Wall made consecutive layups on artistic drives, stretching Washington's lead to 87-77 with 3:52 left. Another layup gave Washington its largest lead at 91-78. His final highlight, a left-handed behind-the-back pass to Trevor Ariza for a slam-dunk. That brought the crowd back to their feet and Wall saluted the fans in response. Now, even with the playoffs likely out of reach, Wall hopes he can help bring the Wizards record up. "We got our team. Just keep building," Wall said. "Get as many wins as we can get. Keep fighting hard. That's all we can do. You don't want to give up on the season." NOTES: Trevor Booker returned for Washington after missing the last 24 games with a strained right knee. ... Despite getting closer to a full roster, the Wizards played for a second straight game without Jordan Crawford (sore left ankle) and Cartier Martin (hyperextended left knee). In the previous meeting against his former team, Crawford posted his second career triple-double. ... Kyle Korver made 1 of 4 3-pointers, giving him at least one 3-pointer in 30 games, the longest streak of his career.
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