John Wall, the heart and and soul of the Wizards, was finally back and he didn't disappoint in his much anticipated debut, scoring 14 points off the bench as Washington won its second game in a row for the first time all season, beating Atlanta 93-83 at Verizon Center.
In his first NBA game since last April, Wall certainly looked a little rusty in the first half but he shook it off in the second, putting on display some of his patented dribble drives and acrobatic finishes around the rim. Then, he iced the cake with a nifty left-handed behind-the-back pass on a three-on-one break to Trevor Ariza to put the Wizards up 91-83 with 1:22 left in the game, which brought the home crowd to its feet.
“I think I just got my legs," Wall said about his fourth quarter play as he scored 6 points in the last 5 minutes. "I played seven minutes straight, that’s what I needed. My teammates trusted me and coaches gave me the ball and told me to make plays, and basically I did that.”
Wall missed more than three months recovering from a left knee stress injury and said he felt no lingering effects.
“It didn’t bother me at all,” he said. “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 than going 100 miles per hour like I usually do and turn the ball over.”
Rookie Bradley Beal had 16 points playing in his first game with Wall.
“John, he’s just awesome," Beal said. "The impact he had on the game, he brings so much energy and enthusiasm and he plays hard. He’s really helping us down the stretch in the fourth quarter. He really makes things easier."
A.J. Price got the start ahead of Wall and had his best game as a Wizard, but all he could talk about was the play of his teammate Wall.
“It was really good, very good for the team. I’m happy for him personally," Price said. "He played very well tonight and he gave us a huge emotional lift that I think we fed off."
"The speed is there. Even though he’s not 100 percent, he’s still very, very tough. He showed that tonight," Price added.
With the Wizards nearly full strength, and despite a deep hole of a 6-28 record, Wizards forward Martell Webster hopes the return of Wall can really turn things around.
“I really feel like we have a fighting chance to make a great impression on the league," Webster said. "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.”