John Wall, playing his first game in more than two months after left knee surgery, notched 15 points and 14 assists in the Washington Wizards’ 107-93 victory Saturday over the Charlotte Hornets in D.C., showing flashes of the elusive quickness that had head coach Scott Brooks comparing his All-Star point guard to a Ferrari.
More importantly, Washington (42-34) clinched its second straight playoff berth and fourth in the past five seasons. Currently, the Wizards sit in the sixth spot with six games left in the regular season.
“We could’ve determined we were going to be earlier [in the season], but we let certain games slip,” Wall said. “That’s the type of things that could bite you later in the season. We can just sit back and control what we can control.”
The Wizards had lost three straight games against Charlotte (34-43) this season prior to the victory, but took control of Saturday’s game in the second half.
Washington outscored Charlotte 37-23 in the third quarter, with Bradley Beal scoring 14 of his 22 points in the quarter, including four 3-pointers.
Otto Porter Jr. also recorded a double-double for Washington with 26 points and 11 rebounds.
Although Brooks said the team’s defense sputtered in parts of the game, Washington held Charlotte to 6-for-23 from 3-point range, while the Wizards shot 18-for-39 from deep. Beal and Porter made six 3-pointers each.
Hornets center Dwight Howard led the team with 22 points and 13 rebounds, but All-Star point guard Kemba Walker only scored seven points on 3-of-9 shooting.
The Wizards only had nine fast-break points, but scored 21 points off 17 Charlotte turnovers.
“I’m proud of our guys,” Brooks said. “A lot of guys chipped in and helped us get this position. We don’t know who we play [in the postseason], and we really don’t care who we play. We just want to play well going into the playoffs.”
If the playoffs began today, the Wizards would face the defending Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
Despite his stellar play Saturday, Wall will sit for Washington’s road game against the Chicago Bulls on Easter Sunday. Backup Tomas Satoransky will start in his place.
The Wizards will have two more games on the road Tuesday against the Houston Rockets and Thursday against Cleveland before returning home Friday to face the Atlanta Hawks. Washington will end the season with a back-to-back set, at home for the Boston Celtics on April 10 and the 2018 finale at the Orlando Magic the following night.
Wall praised his teammates for staying afloat after he underwent surgery on Jan. 1. Washington went 15-12 during his absence.
“If we did not have that one five-game win streak or start off well when I was injured, we would be a team trying to fight and get into the playoffs,” he said. “I give those guys a lot of credit for holding it down while I was out.”