Highlights: Wizards 96, Cavaliers 83
In the last three games, seized by the Wizards with their defensive efforts in the fourth quarter, the answers have been the same about the reason for the surge: John Wall. However he goes tends to reflect how the team responds.
The Atlanta Hawks were in striking distance entering the fourth quarter their eight-point deficit grew to a 114-97 defeat when they shot just 2-for-12. Wall's counterpart, Jeff Teague, failed to score.
The New Orleans Pelicans were held without a field goal for the last five minutes of a comeback Saturday, won on a dunk by Nene just before the buzzer 94-93. Wall's counterpart in this game, Brian Roberts, failed to score a field goal in the period. Wall had been on the bench and entered to play the last five minutes.
The Cleveland Cavaliers were held to nine points in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 96-83 win, shooting just 4 of 21 and committing five turnovers. Wall's counterpart, Kyrie Irving, missed all five field goals in the fourth.
"One of our better 48 minutes defensively. I think it was a timeout with 5:54 left, we're up eight.... I try to get our guys to realize, 'Now you've got to win it defensively,'"coach Randy Wittman said about the win in Cleveland.
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Irving lit up the Wizards for 41 points in an upset at Verizon Center in November. He was held to 6 of 17 shooting overall, mostly being defended by Wall.
"We all got to take on that challenge of guarding our guys one-on-one and keeping them out the paint," Wall said after the game. "In the past we haven't been doing a good job of it. Any team that watches the film know they can get to the middle. You get whatever you when a team gets there."
Bradley Beal's observations after the win vs. New Orleans were similar.
"It always starts on our defense, especially with me and John just denying the wings and trapping as well," he said. "As long as we continue to stay in tune, communicate and rotate and make sure we're on the same page defensively we're going to be a pretty good team."
It gets back to what Martell Webster, a sixth man noted for his three-point shooting, has echoed all season: "The things that don't show up on the stat sheet usually win games, contesting jump shots, getting guys off their sweet spots. ... Our best offense is our defense."