Lakers-Wizards Preview

Over the past two games, John Wall has performed like the player the Washington Wizards imagined they were getting when they made him the top pick in the 2010 NBA draft. For at least the next two weeks, the Wizards might be counting on even more from their biggest star. With starting backcourt mate Bradley Beal likely out until at least mid-December, Wall will look to help pick up the slack starting Tuesday night as the Wizards host a Los Angeles Lakers team that is on a nice run of its own. The Washington point guard is coming off his two highest-scoring games of the season, posting 37 points in a 96-88 loss at Toronto on Friday and 31 in a 98-89 victory over visiting New York on Saturday. ''John backed up (Friday's) game with another really good game for him. Playing the right way, taking really good shots,'' coach Randy Wittman said. ''When he plays and takes what (a) defense gives him, (that) is the prime thing that he needs to do.'' The Wizards (5-8) need Wall to continue playing at the level, especially with Beal out for at least the next two weeks due to another stress injury in his right leg. The team announced early Tuesday that Beal felt sore and had an MRI, which diagnosed the problem in his proximal right fibula. In the spring, a stress injury to his distal right fibula caused the 6-foot-5, 203-pound Beal to miss the final eight games of his rookie season. The No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 draft leads the NBA in minutes per game, averaging 40.2. He is averaging 20.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists. The injury comes at a rough spot in the schedule for the Wizards. After splitting the back-to-backs over the weekend, they face a quick turnaround again with a visit to Milwaukee on Wednesday. Washington then plays on consecutive nights Friday and Saturday. "The main thing with this team is the first quarter is big for us, especially on back-to-backs," Wall said. "Any game we want to play in this season, we need to start out with a good first quarter and a good third quarter. That's how you determine if you're going to have a chance to win it or have a chance to fight to the end." Against the Knicks, the Wizards made their run in the third, turning a three-point halftime deficit into a seven-point lead going into the fourth. Washington has a positive point differential in the first and third quarters but the issue has been finishing games, as the Wizards allow an average of 25.5 points in the fourth to rank in the bottom third of the league. The Lakers (7-7) will try to counter Wall's recent hot play with a balanced attack and add to their season-high three-game winning streak. Los Angeles beat visiting Sacramento 100-86 on Sunday as Xavier Henry scored 21 points off the bench and Pau Gasol added 20 points and 10 rebounds. "We have to carry our momentum right now," Henry said. "Right now guys are playing hard. We're playing like we want it and when we have everybody playing that hard at one time, we're really good." Los Angeles is still without Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, meaning other players have to step up. The Lakers may have found a diamond in the rough in Henry, who is with his third NBA team in four seasons after being drafted 12th overall by Memphis in 2010. Henry is averaging a career-high 8.7 points while coming off the bench in 12 of 14 games, and the Lakers' reserves lead the league with 46.2 points per game. "Everyone's starting to know how to play and know what they are supposed to do out there," said guard Nick Young, who comes off the bench and averages 13.1 points. "We are all relaxed out there, having fun." The Lakers have won six of the past seven meetings in Washington, but Wall had 24 points and 16 assists in leading the Beal-less Wizards to a 103-100 win at Staples Center on March 22.