Wall Notches Career-Best 20 Assists in Wizards’ Win Over Bulls

Washington Wizards guard John Wall drives to the basket beyond the outstretched arm of Chicago Bulls forward Paul Zipser in the third quarter of the Wizards' 112-107 win at Verizon Center in D.C. on March 17. (John De Freitas/The Washington Informer)
Washington Wizards guard John Wall drives to the basket beyond the outstretched arm of Chicago Bulls forward Paul Zipser in the third quarter of the Wizards' 112-107 win at Verizon Center in D.C. on March 17. (John De Freitas/The Washington Informer)

Washington Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall twisted his right ankle a few days before Friday’s game against the Chicago Bulls, but insisted he’d be ready to go.

Wall, as it turns out, was more than ready, dishing out a career-high 20 assists in nearly 34 minutes to lead the Wizards to a 112-107 win at Verizon Center in northwest D.C., snapping Washington’s two-game skid.

“Going back into the fourth quarter when I had 18 [assists], I knew I had a chance [for 20], but I also knew I had to play the right way because it was a close game,” said Wall, who also scored 14 points with only two turnovers. “Just tried to get the win.”

The Wizards (42-26) held the Bulls to just 17 second-quarter points, taking a 59-40 lead into the half.

But Chicago (32-37) heated up after the break, scoring 67 second-half points and all but erasing the Wizards’ big lead in the final minutes.

Chicago Bulls point guard Rajon Rondo attempts a layup ahead of Washington Wizards forward Jason Smith during the Wizards' 112-107 win at Verizon Center in D.C. on March 17. (John De Freitas/The Washington Informer)
Chicago Bulls point guard Rajon Rondo attempts a layup ahead of Washington Wizards forward Jason Smith during the Wizards’ 112-107 win at Verizon Center in D.C. on March 17. (John De Freitas/The Washington Informer)

All-Star guard Jimmy Butler, who had a game-high 28 points, scored 11 in the fourth quarter and hit a 3-pointer to cut the Wizards’ lead to 108-107 with 39 seconds remaining, but Wall and forward Otto Porter Jr. hit four straight free throws to seal the victory.

Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 25 points, going 3-of-4 beyond the arc. The Wizards hit 10 of 26 three-point attempts, compared to the Bulls’ 7-27.

Jason Smith, starting in place of forward Markieff Morris, who was out with an illness, scored 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 37 minutes.

“It was solely attributed to [Wall],” Smith said of his success. “He was distributing the ball to everybody. I’m just hitting open shots when I can. I just try to come in and get my work done.”

Smith, getting his first start in his past 378 career games, also shot 3-for-6 from deep.

The 7-footer said big guys must “evolve or die” in the league’s current trend of run-and-gun basketball, which puts a premium on sharpshooting bigs.

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said he wasn’t happy with the team’s defensive effort in the second half despite the win.

The Bulls, playing without 12-time All-Star guard Dwyane Wade, who is out for the regular season with a fractured elbow, shot 43 percent from the floor in the first two quarters, but finished at 50 percent for the game. Chicago also out-rebounded the Wizards 52-41.

“We’re going to have to look at the film, but it wasn’t obviously as good,” Brooks said. “[Bulls center Robin Lopez] had his way on the boards. He was getting offensive rebounds and putbacks. This is what we talked about before the game. We didn’t do a good job to keep them off the glass.”

The week didn’t end as well for Washington, which lost the next night on the road, 98-93, to the Charlotte Hornets. Wall received his 14th technical foul on the season, which could lead to a one-game suspension if it gets to 16.

The Wizards returned to Verizon Center this week for a two-game home stand (3/22 vs. the Atlanta Hawks; 3/24 vs. the Brooklyn Nets) before a nine-day, five-game road trip that starts Saturday against the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

About William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer 234 Articles
I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com