Wizards ex­tend home streak to 17


The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY AVA WAL­LACE

It has been so long, al­most three months, since the Wash­ing­ton Wizards had felt the dis­ap­point­ment of a loss at home. Wash­ing­ton’s star point guard didn’t want to be re­minded of the feel­ing Satur­day night at Ver­i­zon Cen­ter.

With 1:15 re­main­ing and New Or­leans Pelicans cen­ter An­thony Davis star­ing him down, John Wall un­leashed a 21-foot jumper as part of a game-clos­ing 15-0 run, then scram­bled to fling his body to the floor af­ter Jrue Hol­i­day’s er­rant drib­ble. Wall forced a turnover and ef­fec­tively sealed the Wizards’ 105-91 vic­tory, ex­tend­ing Wash­ing­ton’s home win­ning streak to 17 games.

The Wizards last lost at home Dec. 6 and now have the sec­ond-long­est home streak in fran­chise his­tory, be­hind only the 1974-75 Bul­lets. That team won 22 in a row and ad­vanced to the NBA Fi­nals, where it was swept by the War­riors. If these Wizards are to reach 22 straight wins at Ver­i­zon Cen­ter, No. 22 will come against, yes, Golden State.

Plenty of home tests await be­fore that Feb. 28 date against the War­riors, in­clud­ing Mon­day night’s game against the de­fend­ing cham­pion Cleve­land Cava­liers. But Satur­day night’s win again showed the de­fen­sive re­silience and grow­ing con­fi­dence that have de­fined Wash­ing­ton’s run.

“We’re locked in, play­ing bet­ter de­fense as a team. Just our of­fense — it’s just free flow­ing, every­body’s get­ting touches,” Wall sum­ma­rized, be­fore giv­ing a nod to Satur­day’s starters. “All five guys in dou­ble fig­ures, and our bench is play­ing great.”

Wash­ing­ton (30-20) has won seven straight over­all — its long­est win­ning streak in 12 years — and main­tained its half-game lead over At­lanta in the South­east Di­vi­sion be­hind a late push in which the Wizards’ de­fense al­lowed New Or­leans just eight points in the fourth quar­ter. Davis, who led all play­ers with 25 points and added 10 re­bounds, took just three shots in the fourth pe­riod and didn’t con­nect on any of them.

The Wizards, now in third in the Eastern Con­fer­ence, outscored New Or­leans 25-8 in the fi­nal quar­ter. The Pelicans didn’t score in the fi­nal 5:52.

“We want to play solid through­out the game, and in the fourth quar­ter, it’s al­ways been about pick­ing up the in­ten­sity,” Wash­ing­ton Coach Scott Brooks said. “You have a choice to do that in the fourth quar­ter.”

The turn­around in the fi­nal pe­riod had much to do with the Wizards’ sec­ond-unit de­fense, which set the tone by block­ing New Or­leans’s first three shots of the fourth quar­ter.

“[The bench] was a big part of our win be­cause we were flat, we had noth­ing go­ing,” Brooks said. “They got de­fen­sive stops. They got good ex­e­cu­tion on of­fense. They got easy buck­ets, and they gave us the chance to have our starters come back in and fin­ish the game off.”

Wall had a team-high 24 points to go with 13 as­sists and five steals. Marki­eff Mor­ris added 18 points — and had a tone-set­ting dunk in the fourth quar­ter to start that game-clos­ing run. Marcin Gor­tat, to the de­light of many in the crowd of 19,651 on Pol­ish Her­itage Night, had 12 points and led all play­ers with 17 re­bounds.

Wash­ing­ton, though pleased with its ef­fort, would rather not have to de­pend on an em­phatic fourth quar­ter to seal a win mov­ing for­ward. Wall had that in mind as he thought ahead to ex­tend­ing the Wizards’ over­all win streak, not just its run at Ver­i­zon Cen­ter.

“It’s great that we’re do­ing that, but we try to avoid those op­por­tu­ni­ties to have to do that, be­cause when you’re on the road and you got the op­pos­ing team’s crowd into it, it’s kind of tough to get back,” Wall said. “Our crowd has been amaz­ing for us to give us the op­por­tu­nity to get those runs and get those stops. We have to do a bet­ter job of com­ing out of the third quar­ter [in the] first five min­utes. Keep our lead where it’s at, try to put teams away. Try not to give them life.”

The task gets tougher Mon­day.


Wash­ing­ton’s Marki­eff Mor­ris, who scored 18 points, shoots over New Or­leans’s Dante Cun­ning­ham.

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