By Dave Johnson
On a night when the Washington Wizards celebrated their past, the team’s future continued to shine. With members of the 1978 NBA Champion Washington Bullets in attendance, John Wall delivered 37 points to help the Wizards past the Indiana Pacers 104-85.
Here is today’s Wizards Report:
The Wizards have now defeated seven of the eight projected Eastern Conference playoff teams this season. Boston is the only team they have not beaten, with the final game of the season Sunday night in Boston.
Coverage of Wizards and Celtics from Boston begins at 5:45 on the Washington Wizards Radio Network.
Randy Wittman on 1978 team in attendance:
“I think that was huge. I really do. That’s all the talk was the last two days, was all these guys coming back. I think our guys wanted to come out and not let them down, and try to play our best for them because they knew they were all in the house.”
Eager to put behind a midweek loss in Toronto, Wall was in control from the start of the game. While the Pacers wanted to slow the game into a half court contest, Wall pushed the pace and scored 15 points in the first quarter in 7 of 8 shooting from the field. At one point in the opening 12 minutes the Wizards had a 14-point lead at 26-12.
“We had to establish ourselves defensively from the start and then get out and run. John took it to another level in that first quarter of pushing the ball, making their bigs try to run to get back, and he had a phenomenal game for us again.”
With the crowd of 19,360 already electrified by Wall’s performance, he brought the crowd to its feet when he swiped the ball away from Roy Hibbert and then finished on the break with a one-handed dunk on Paul George. Wall didn’t force his way to 35 points and only had two turnovers.
Defense was also a big part of the story. The Pacers opened the third quarter 1 for 9 shooting from the field and by the end of the quarter had built a 77-66 lead. In the fourth quarter the Pacers started 0 for 8 from the field. Roy Hibbert had 25 points and 10 rebounds, but All Star Paul George only had two points and was 0 for 8 from the field.
Pacers head coach Frank Vogel:
“Definitely a tough loss and I have to give credit to the Wizards. They were definitely the fresher team and played with more energy. John Wall is becoming a very sensational player and he was too much for us to handle tonight.”
"Wall has a similar progression to what Derrick Rose experienced a couple years ago. It was his first year in the league he played hard and in the paint, but when he added that jump shot he was unstoppable. When playing against him, you have to get your whole team back on transition defense.”
The Wizards have now won nine straight games at home. The last time the Wizards won nine consecutive home games was from 12/13/06 to 1/20/07 when they won 10 straight.
The Wizards are now 22-17 at home. The last time the Wizards were over .500 at home after 35 games was during the 2007-08 season. The Wizards finished 25-16 at home that season.
The Wizards are now 24-19 since John Wall’s return.