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Wizards out of cellar after win

The SportsXchange

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Wizards have been called many names this season. Following their latest victory, one moniker no longer applies: last place.

John Wall had 14 points in his first start of the season and the Wizards moved out the NBA's basement with a 114-101 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night.

Jordan Crawford paced six double-figure scorers with 19 points in 22 minutes, and Bradley Beal scored 16 for the Wizards (10-31), who have won six of nine games and four straight at home.

The victory moved Washington past idle Charlotte (10-31) in the league-wide and Southeast division standings.

Neither the players nor coach Randy Wittman were aware of the standings rise. After being used as a league-wide punch line for much of the season, the Wizards are now punching back.

"We're just trying to close out the season the right way," Wall said. "You're not going to hear any good thing about your team or organization when you're not winning games. That's all we're trying to do, just win. You don't want to end up as the last team."

In their first contest following a five-game Western road swing, the Wizards never trailed and shot a season-high 57.8 percent from the field in their third straight double-digit home win.

Nene also scored 14 points, Martell Webster 13 and Kevin Seraphin had 10 for Washington, which led by 23 points in the second half.

"This was obviously a good win coming off a road trip," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "These are always the games you're concerned about as a coach. Our guys came out, I thought, right from the start with good energy. Again, we moved the ball tremendously -- 29 assists."

Derrick Williams had 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Andrei Kirilenko scored 17 points for the skidding Timberwolves (17-23), who have lost eight of nine games. Minnesota shot 3 of 14 (21.4 percent) from beyond the 3-point arc, but its lacking effort on the defensive end caused the most damage.

"I think we had a lot of breakdowns," Minnesota's acting coach Terry Porter said. "Obviously this team is playing well but we didn't make them work for everything they got."

Wall, who came off the bench for his first seven games of the season, dished out five assists and made 6 of 10 shots in 21 minutes. Despite the start, Wall played his fewest minutes in any game this season. Credit that to not playing during the fourth quarter of a blowout rather than the still imposed minutes count.

"It feels good to be there, with the starters," Wall said. "I just tried to do the same: dictate the game, try to get everybody involved, take my opportunities to get open shots. Just try to lead my team. That's what I did and got us to a big lead."

The No. 1 overall selection in the 2010 NBA Draft returned to the court on Jan. 12 after missing the opening 33 games with a left knee injury.

Asked pregame why he chose this game to start Wall, Wittman simply stated, "it's time."

Coincidentally, Wall's direct opponent, Minnesota's Ricky Rubio, also entered the game with monitored minutes, though he finished playing a season-high 31. Maybe he should have played less. The Timberwolves point guard, who is recovering from left knee surgery, had four points on 1-of-8 shooting, and five turnovers.

"I'm still missing a little power in my legs, but it's hard to find your rhythm during the season," Rubio said. "It's hard to work out when you have so many games. I'm trying. I'm trying. I'm going to keep trying."

Wall wasted no time putting his stamp on the game with assists on Washington's first two baskets, setting the tone for the collective pass-happy effort. The Wizards never trailed, started 9 of 11 from the field and shot 59.5 percent in the first half and held a 16-point lead before the crowd of 14,095.

The electric point guard capped the scoring with full-court, full-speed drive through Minnesota's entire defense, finishing with a difficult layup. Washington matched its season-high scoring total for a first half and entered the locker room up 60-46.

"Obviously he's a huge difference," Porter said of Wall. "He's a game changer when it comes to his ability to go coast to coast, his ability to get into the paint."

Notes: Wall's previous start came against Miami on April 26, the final game of the 2011-12 season. ... Porter said Rubio's limit remains 28 minutes, but the game flow prevented a substitution at the desired time. ... Minnesota remains without head coach Rick Adelman. The longtime coach left the team on Jan. 5 to be with his wife, Mary Kay, who has been hospitalized with an undisclosed illness. ... Center Nikola Pekovic (right thigh contusion) and guard Alexey Shved (left ankle sprain) each missed their fourth straight game for the Timberwolves. ... Wittman coached the Timberwolves as an assistant from 1994-99 and was promoted to head coach in 2007.
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