The Washington Wizards sloughed off a sluggish start at home Saturday against the Philadelphia 76ers, waking up and taking over in the second half of a 109-93 win behind John Wall’s 25 points and seven assists.
The victory was the Wizards’ 11th straight at Verizon Center, the team’s longest home win streak since 1989 when they were the Washington Bullets and played at the Capital Centre in Landover.
More importantly, Washington (20-19) closed within two games of the Southeast Division-leading Atlanta Hawks, after a 2-8 start to the season and playing sub-.500 ball until this week.
The Wizards dug an early hole Saturday, too, down by as many as 13 points in the first half, but Wall led a second-quarter charge to get them back in the game by attacking the rim, scoring 11 points and shooting 3-4 from the free throw line.
Wall, who rested the entire fourth quarter to preserve an ailing left wrist and right pinkie finger, showed reporters afterward the still-swollen digit, on which he wore a splint to stabilize it.
“I was able to keep [the pinkie] under control where it didn’t go out as far as it is now,” said Wall, who also grabbed seven rebounds. “[The splint] worked, so I keep using it.”
The Wizards’ defense didn’t look stellar early, giving up 56 points by halftime to a 76ers squad that ranks 26th in scoring at 99.3 points per game.
In the second half, however, the Wizards scored the first seven points to take a 63-56 lead. The team extended the lead to 15 late in the third quarter and kept it at double digits for the remainder of the game.
“I thought we did a better job of making them miss [in the second half],” Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said. “I thought the guys really responded after halftime.”
The 76ers (12-26), winners of three straight coming into Saturday’s game, only scored 37 points in the second half and shot just 41 percent from the floor.
Philadelphia center Jahlil Okafor led all scorers with 26 points. He also grabbed nine rebounds.
Shooting guard Bradley Beal, who scored 20 points and shot 2-for-3 behind the arc, also sat out the fourth quarter.
“I wanted to play a little bit [in the fourth quarter], but it was good to see us close out a game in the right way,” he said. “It’s always a good feeling for those guys [off the bench] to play. We’re always excited for them because they put in a lot of work that people don’t see.”
The Wizards will attempt to run their home win streak to 12 against the Portland Trailblazers (18-24) Monday at 2 p.m.