What a difference a week makes. The Wizards head into Monday’s game against Orlando with a shot of confidence thanks to the return of John Wall to the lineup. The Wizards franchise player was welcomed with a standing ovation and sparked Saturday’s 93-83 win against Atlanta.
As expected, it took Wall an entire half to get comfortable but he dominated down the stretch finishing with 14 points and 4 assists in 21 minutes. But most importantly you could tell his explosion was back and there were no lingering effects of a left knee injury that kept him on the sideline for the first 33 games of the season.
“It didn’t bother me at all,” said Wall. “I just wanted to make sure to not be super out of control. I had a couple turnovers off simple passes, but it’s better to have them that way then going 100 mph like I usually do and turn the ball over.”
Points have been hard to come by for the Wizards. Their 89.4 points per game is good for dead last in the league. But with Wall back in the line up Wizards coach Randy Wittman hopes to see less “hero ball.”
“This is three games in a row now, where we’ve moved the ball; passed the ball; don’t over dribble; don’t try to go one-on-one, don’t try to do anything that we’re not capable of doing, said Wittman. “The movement of the basketball has been great. I think that has to be something that we continue to build on.”
Orlando has really struggled of late and needed a season high 30 points from Aaron Afflalo to break a 10-game losing streak on Saturday at the Los Angeles Clippers.
After missing 17-games with a calf injury Trevor Ariza is still working his way back into playing shape. But with Wall back Ariza can concentrate on being a lock down defender just like he was Saturday night against Atlanta. If Afflalo gets off to a hot start Ariza’s number will likely be called again.
“I thought (the things) Trevor Ariza did, doesn’t show in the box score,” said Wittman after the Wizards win against Atlanta. “I thought he was instrumental in the second half. We put him on (Kyle) Korver, and told him not to give him a look. He did not give him a look.”
While Ariza was out Martell Webster really took advantage of his extended minutes. The veteran forward has reached double figures in points in seven of his last ten games. Although this season hasn’t gone as the Wizards planned Webster thinks there is still time to make things right.
“I really feel like we have a fighting chance to make a great impression on the league,” said Webster. “To really show the league what we’re capable of doing. As long as we keep the mindset and understanding that John (Wall) is the maestro and we have to get out and run, I think we’ll be good.”
With wins over Oklahoma City and Atlanta the Wizards have won back-to-back games for the first time since ending the 2011-2012 season with six wins. But for Wittman back-to-back wins doesn’t equal a winning streak.
"They say a winning streak is three, so we've got to get this third one.”