WASHINGTON (AP) — In the fourth quarter, when he had shook off the nerves and rust and finally found his legs, John Wall starting yelling: "I'm back."
"That's what I was saying the whole time," Wall said. "To anybody. I was just happy to be playing basketball. To whoever was in my way, that's what I was saying."
Wall made his season debut Saturday night, giving his teammates a lift with 14 points and four assists in 21 minutes, highlighted by a left-handed behind-the-back assist when the Washington Wizards were putting the game away in the final minutes.
Saturday night's 93-83 victory over the Atlanta Hawks gave the worst-in-NBA Wizards their first winning streak of the season, and a psychological high point now that their franchise player is healthy again.
"Still the same year," Wizards guard A.J. Price said. "But definitely new life."
Trying not to get carried away in his return from a knee injury, Wall went 5 for 11 from the field and 4 for 5 from the free-throw line, saluting the crowd as they gave him a standing ovation when he entered with 4:56 remaining in the first quarter, and again when he fed rookie Bradley Beal for a fast-break dunk, and one more time at the final whistle.
"I was just nervous to see how I would feel. ... My homeboys-slash-brothers were joking, happy the whole day," Wall said. "I'm just trying to stay calm and take a nap."
Although his playing time will be limited while he gets himself in full playing shape, Wall appeared to have his old speed and explosiveness back. It was his first time teaming with No. 3 overall draft pick Beal, and they gave the fans a taste of the speedy backcourt they had waited so long to see.
"The game is different now," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said.
Beal and Price finished with 16 points apiece, and Martell Webster added 15 for the Wizards, who are 6-28 but have strung together two wins in a row following their upset of Oklahoma City on Monday.
Jeff Teague scored 19 points, Al Horford had 16 points and 12 rebounds, and Josh Smith added 11 points for the Hawks, who trailed the entire second half and have lost five of six. Atlanta had won 18 of its previous 19 against Washington, including six in a row.
The Hawks were let down by their defense and took too many 3-point shots (24), but Wall was a difference as well.
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