The Washington Wizards are gelling as a team. After some early season rumors of inner tension, the Wizards are playing better basketball as the teammates become more familiar with one another. The growing closeness of the team was perhaps highlighted in a postgame scuffle during midweek that saw Washington rally behind its star player John Wall. The Wizards caught some nice breaks to start the week before a frustrating loss to Boston interrupted the stretch. The Wizards didn’t let the defeat defuse them and went on to finish a strong week. The AFRO recaps the week that was for the Washington Wizards.

Jan. 8: Wizards Defeat Bucks 107-101

Washington Wizards' Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) dunks over Milwaukee Bucks' Malcolm Brogdon (13) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

Washington Wizards’ Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) dunks over Milwaukee Bucks’ Malcolm Brogdon (13) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

Washington opened the week on the road on Jan. 8 against the Milwaukee Bucks, who played without superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. And, the Wizards took advantage of the short-handed home team. Six Wizards scored in double figures and Washington allowed just 44 points in the second half to steal a 107-101 win. Bradley Beal scored 26 points, and reserve sophomore forward Kelly Oubre added 17 points off the bench. The Wizards used a 33-21 third quarter to overcome a 12-point first half deficit. The win was critical as Milwaukee and Washington could battle until season’s end for a mid-seed playoff spot. With both teams evenly talented, home court in the first round could be a decisive factor.  

Jan. 10: Wizards Corral Bulls, 101-99

Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) grabs the ball against Chicago Bulls guard Rajon Rondo (9) and guard Michael Carter-Williams (7) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, in Washington. The Wizards won 101-99. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

The Wizards again caught a break on Jan. 10 when the Chicago Bulls, missing several key players including the newly acquired Dwyane Wade, visited the Verizon Center. After a sluggish start, Washington woke up in the second half to nab a 101-99 win. Wall paced the club with 26 points, 14 assists and six rebounds, driving Washington out of an 18-point deficit to their 10th consecutive home win, matching a near 10-year record that the Wizards set in the 2006-2007 campaign. Beal and Markieff Morris added 19 points, apiece as five Wizards scored in double figures.

Jan. 11: Washington Falls to Boston, 117-108

Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder, right with ponytail, is held back by assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry after the final buzzer of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards in Boston, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017. The Celtics defeated the Wizards 117-108. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Tempers flared in Washington’s 117-108 loss to the Boston Celtics on Jan. 11. A hard-fought contest resulted in a mini scuffle between Wall and Celtics forward Jae Crowder after the game was over. The scuffle was quickly broken up on the floor but escalated when players waited outside their locker rooms to renew the altercation postgame. Beal poured in 35 points and Otto Porter Jr. added 20 points, five assists and six rebounds. The loss was disheartening, but the players rallied behind Wall during the altercation and showed a team unity that hasn’t been seen all season. It would serve them well in the next outing.  

Jan. 14: Refocused Wizards Trump 76ers, 109-93

Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) reacts with center Marcin Gortat (13), of Poland, during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

A scuffle in Boston had Washington refocused for their next home opponent with the Philadelphia 76ers on Jan. 14 and it showed in a 109-93 victory. The Wizards again started off slowly and trailed 30-21 after the opening quarter but used the next two periods to blow the game open. Washington outscored Philadelphia 65-41 in the following quarters behind Wall’s 25 points, seven assists and seven rebounds. Five Wizards scored in double figures; Beal added 20 points while Marcin Gortat provided 12 points and 10 rebounds.

A 3-1 week was another solid stretch for the Washington Wizards as they continue to battle back from a start below .500 to a solid playoff position. The Wizards will return to action on Jan. 16 against the Portland Trailblazers.

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO