For some reason, these games never are easy for the Wizards, especially on back-to-backs, but they found a way to come from behind to win their second game in a row by beating the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday in front of 17,996 at Verizon Center.
Their magic number for clinching a playoff berth is now one. If the New York Knicks lose at the Golden State Warriors on Sunday, the Wizards (38-35) officially are in though their seeding still is up for grabs. With Saturday's win, the No. 6 Wizards are even in the win column with the No. 5 Brooklyn Nets (38-33) and 2.5 games behind the No. 4 Chicago Bulls (40-32).
John Wall had a game-high 25 points on 10-for-20 shooting to lead six players in double figures, and had seven rebounds, six assists and three steals. Leading 99-89 with 2:38 left, however, the Hawks reeled off eight consecutive points -- in between, Wall missed a pair of free throws with 45 seconds left and Marcin Gortat a point-blank shot at 21 seconds -- to make this one closer than it had to be.
Bradley Beal had 14 points even though he shot just 5-for-15 to go with six rebounds and five assists. Gortat had 12 points and 11 rebounds, Trevor Ariza 13 points and five rebounds, and Andre Miller and Drew Gooden led a bench that contributed 37 points. Gooden scored 16 on 5-for-5 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds while Miller had 10 points and three assists. Gooden's final rebound was a missed layup by Jeff Teague that could've tied the score with the Wizards up 99-97.
It was the sixth consecutive loss for Atlanta (31-41). The Wizards, who won the season series 3-1 for the first time since 2006, couldn't hold early leads in the first half and trailed 52-50 at the break. They opened the third quarter with consecutive turnovers from Gortat and Trevor Booker but that's where Wall stepped in.
Turning point: Trailing 66-59, the Wizards ended the third on a 16-5 run, sparked by 10 points from Wall, to regain the advantage entering the fourth 75-71. Wall also assisted Gortat on a layup and won a jump ball with 6-11 Mike Muscala -- after he'd gotten a steal from Muscala -- and the tap out led to Ariza's breakaway dunk.
Key stat: The Hawks attempted 31 three-point shots, only making nine.
Slippery slope: Beal went down in the third quarter, sliding with both feet on a fast break and was slow to get up. Teague, on the other end, slipped on a crossover dribble that caused a turnover. Then Ariza rushed back after a basket and fell and appeared to be in severe pain. He was able to get up eventually and walk off the floor. Wall went down on a move in the fourth quarter at the top of the key, but he was still able to get the ball to Andre Miller for a bucket. An NHL game with the Capitals took place earlier in the day at Verizon. Ariza told CSN Washington that he's not sure if he's going to be able to play because of a groin injury as a result of his fall.
X-factors: The absence of Kyle Korver (back) and DeMarre Carroll (flu) thrust former Wizards players Shelvin Mack and Cartier Martin into the starting lineup. Martin had 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting and Mack contributed five points, six assists and six rebounds.
From the locker room: "Not disappointed in that. There is not a bad win in this league. We will take the win. I am happy for them for that. Good back-to-back. We got to do better finishing games the last two minutes." -- Wizards coach Randy Wittman
"It's just the guys they got on the court. We contested shots in the first half. They just made a couple tough one and they were hot. It's a different situation than (Friday). We played softer with our concept because David West (of Indiana) was the only one popping and Roy Hibbert was rolling. Tonight you got a 5-man (Pero Antic), a 4-man (Paul Millsap) that space the court. They went like we do sometimes, small, or big when we play Al (Harrington) and Drew. With two shooters (to defend) it's tough to guard their position. So we had to switch it up at halftime." -- Wall
"I just tried to lay it in. I didn't want to try anything crazy, just lay it in, make sure we got the points. It was just fatigue I guess. No lift anymore in my legs. ... (I was thinking), 'I'm going to get shot on the street today.'" -- Gortat on missing chip shot with 21 seconds left that would've given the Wizards a four-point lead
"I just missed it. I undershot it. I should've made it." -- Teague on the final attempt to tie the score
Up next: The Wizards will be off Sunday, when they travel to play at the Charlotte Bobcats on Monday (CSN, 7 p.m. ET).