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Wall returns to lead Wizards past Hawks

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Associated Press
1/12/2013 9:49:08 PM
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WASHINGTON -- John Wall gave his teammates a lift with 14 points and four assists in his first game of the season, and the worst-in-NBA Washington Wizards have their first winning streak after a 93-83 victory Saturday night over the Atlanta Hawks.

Wall's playing time will be limited as he returns from a knee injury, but he appeared to have his old speed and explosiveness back while playing seven minutes in the first half and 15 in the second half.

No. 3 overall pick Bradley Beal, getting to play with Wall for the first time, scored 16 points for the Wizards, who are 6-28 but have strung together two wins in a row following their upset of Oklahoma City on Monday.

A.J Price added 16 points and Martell Webster had 15 for the Wizards, who never trailed in the second half.

Jeff Teague scored 19 points, Al Horford had 16 points and 12 rebounds, and Josh Smith added 11 points for the Hawks, who have lost five of six. Atlanta had won 18 of its previous 19 against Washington, including six in a row.

Typical of the game -- and by far the lowlight for the Hawks -- came when Ivan Johnson missed a wide-open layup by throwing the ball completely over the basket and catching it on the other side, thus committing a travelling violation. The basket would have cut the Wizards' lead to four with about 9 minutes to play.

Applause rippled around the half-full arena a little over midway through the first quarter when Wall stood up in front of the Wizards' bench and removed his warm-up jacket. When the whistle next blew, with 4:56 to play in the quarter, the team's franchise player walked onto the court to a standing ovation.

Wall didn't acknowledge the crowd and instead simply tied his shorts and took his place near the free-throw line. His first highlight was a fast-break assist to rookie Beal, the kind of play the Wizards have been envisioning from a speedy Wall-Beal backcourt.

Wall also had a three-point play as he dribbled down the clock at the end of the third quarter, and he lit up the crowd with a dazzling assist to Trevor Ariza in the final two minutes of the game.

Wall went 5 for 11 from the field and 4 for 5 from the free-throw line. His driving layup gave the Wizards an eight-point lead with 4:25 to play.

Wall was expected to miss about two months when he was diagnosed with a stress injury to his left kneecap in late September. He began increasing his basketball activity last month, but it wasn't until Wednesday that he had his first full-throttle practice with the team.

After three consecutive days of pain-free workouts, Wall was given medical clearance Friday to suit up, but his minutes are being carefully monitored by coach Randy Wittman. Wall hit the floor a couple of times during the game trying to take a charge, but bounced up with no apparent issues with his knee.

Even with Wall's return, the Wizards are far from healthy. Jordan Crawford (sore left ankle) and Cartier Martin (hyperextended left knee) remain sidelined, and four other players are having their playing time monitored. Trevor Booker returned Saturday after missing 24 games with a strained right knee. Price and Trevor Ariza returned from long injury layoffs in Tuesday's win over the Thunder, and Nene is nursing tendinitis in his right knee.

NOTES: The Hawks were called for three technical: Smith and Williams in the first quarter, and Teague as part of a double-technical with Kevin Seraphin in the fourth. ... Wizards F Jan Vesely played four minutes and committed five fouls. ... Hawks G Anthony Morrow missed his ninth straight game with a sore lower back. ... The Wizards had nine players with at least one turnover in first half. ... It must be NFL playoff time: Random cheers were heard throughout the game whenever the Baltimore Ravens made a big play in their overtime win over the Denver Broncos.

John Wall (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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