John Wall is playing the best basketball of his career, and the Washington Wizards are reaping the benefits. Behind Wall, Washington is climbing up the standings in the Eastern conference and looking as formidable as any team in the East that doesn’t have LeBron James on its roster. Since losing their first pair of games in January, Washington has won seven of its last nine games and has looked pretty impressive doing so. The AFRO recaps the week that was for the Washington Wizards.

Jan. 16: Washington Blazes Past Portland on MLK Day, 120-101

A home game on Martin Luther King Day, Jan. 16, against the Portland Trailblazers turned into a nice showcase in front of a near-sellout Verizon Center crowd. Six Wizards scored in double figures as Washington handled Portland 120-101 in easy fashion.

Washington Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. (22) shoots between Memphis Grizzlies guard Vince Carter (15) and forward JaMychal Green (0) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, in Washington. The Wizards won 104-101. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

The Wizards led by 25 points at halftime and never looked back. Wall was the catalyst, scoring 24 points and handing out seven assists. Backcourt mate Bradley Beal added a team-high 25 points and Markieff Morris put up a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds. The contest was billed as an intriguing matchup between Washington’s backcourt and Portland’s duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. The Wizards’ unit won the day, outscoring Portland’s backcourt 49-34 and winning the assist matchup 12-6.

Jan. 18: Wizards Extend Streak with 104-101 Victory over Grizzlies

Washington returned to the Verizon Center on Jan. 18 to host the Memphis Grizzlies, and added another victory to their home winning streak in a 104-101 decision. Washington had to fight off a late Memphis rally, but used a career night from Otto Porter and another big game from Wall to earn another tough win. Porter hit six of eight shots from deep and tied Wall with 25 points apiece as Washington raced to a 66-51 halftime lead. The Grizzlies wouldn’t go away but 13 assists and a pair of clutch baskets late in the game from Wall saved the Wizards from collapsing. Memphis’ James Ennis III missed a wide open three-pointer as time expired, shortly after the Grizzlies tied Beal up near half court and forced a turnover despite several attempts from Washington to call a timeout.

Jan. 19: Washington Adds to New York’s Woes With 113-110 Win

A nationally-televised road matchup against the New York Knicks on Jan. 19 was the perfect opportunity for Wall to showcase what he’s been doing this season. A Wall rebound and coast-to-coast finish put the icing on a 113-110 win against the sinking Knicks. Wall again paced the team with 29 points, 13 assists and five rebounds, but his last basket of the night 

Washington Wizards’ John Wall (2) goes up for a dunk in front of New York Knicks’ Justin Holiday (8) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

was undoubtedly his most impressive. Leading 111-110 with less than 20 seconds remaining, Wall skied over New York’s Derrick Rose to secure a rebound off a missed jumper by Carmelo Anthony. He then headed left before spinning the ball behind his back to the right, leaving opposing Knicks guard Brandon Jennings grasping for air as Wall raced down the floor for an easy dunk. On the following series Wall deflected Courtney Lee’s three-point attempt and raised his arms for the victory as the buzzer sounded and Washington celebrated their fourth consecutive victory.

Jan. 21: Detroit’s Buzzer-Beater Stymies Wizards’ Rally in 113-112 Loss

A Jan 21. road showdown with the Detroit Pistons didn’t end as favorably as Washington’s prior contest. Detroit’s Markus Morris, brother of the Wizards’ Markieff Morris, timed his putback perfectly with 0.2 seconds left and extinguished Washington’s win streak in a 113-112 finish. The Wizards rallied from a 16-point fourth quarter deficit to take a late lead, but

Washington Wizards forward Markieff Morris dunks during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Wall missed a jump shot with 27 seconds remaining that would have extended the Washington lead to three points and left the window open for Detroit. Seven players scored in double figures for Washington, with Wall and Morris scoring 19 points each.
A late buzzer-beater aside, it was an outstanding week for the Washington Wizards. The team has settled in under new coach Scott Brooks and both Wall and Beal are having career seasons. As the midway point of the NBA season approaches, Washington has a chance to finish even higher in the standings if they close out the year strong. They currently sit fifth in the Eastern Conference playoff standings, and second in the Southeastern Division. The Wizards return to action on Jan. 23 when they visit the Charlotte Hornets.

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO