Wizards end 2-game stumble with win over Lakers

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 22, 2014 at 1:18 am •  Published: March 22, 2014
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Washington Wizards are in a great position to make the playoffs for the first time in six years, and John Wall has a lot to do with it.

Wall had 28 points and 14 assists, leading the Wizards to a heated 117-107 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night.

"He's a competitor that comes every night," coach Randy Wittman said. "He's obviously a big part that gets our engine running. So I want him to understand how important he is in continuing that."

The Wizards are having their best season since 2007-08, when they ended a string of four consecutive playoff berths. They've already surpassed last season's win total by seven with 13 games remaining, and are sixth in the Eastern Conference, with a seven-game lead over the New York Knicks for the final playoff seed.

"The difference this year is just trusting each other," Wall said. "This is a group that enjoys playing with each other, and we know the one thing we can do is play hard for 48 minutes and trust any guy down the stretch. I give a lot of credit to our organization and our coaches for helping our second unit improve."

Washington (36-33) is one of only six teams in their conference with a winning record. But if they were in the West, they would be in 10th place — 4 1/2 games out of contention.

"I'm glad I'm in the East," Wall said with a grin. "But we still haven't solidified a playoff spot, so we knew we had to get back on the right track — pushing the ball and playing team defense. When we get stagnant, we don't play great and lose a lot of games like that. So it was great to get to come back tonight and get back on the winning track."

Bradley Beal added 18 points for the Wizards, who began this four-game western trip with back-to-back losses to Sacramento and Portland. Nene sat out his 13th in a row with a sprained left knee, but Marcin Gortat returned to the lineup with 13 points and 13 rebounds in 34 minutes after missing his first game of the season because of pain in his lower back.

"Kudos to our guys and their connections out here on the coast to get him some treatment," Wittman said. "Last night we thought he was day-to-day, but he got here and he said: 'You know what? I feel pretty good.' I wasn't anticipating that, but it was a pleasant surprise."

Tempers flared with 2:14 remaining and the Wizards ahead 108-98, as Jordan Hill and Nick Young got into a scuffle with Gooden after a battle for a loose ball.

Referees Scott Foster, Mark Ayotte and Nick Buchert went to the video monitor at the scorer's table review, and Gooden was assessed a Flagrant 2 foul and was ejected. So was Hill, who received a technical foul. Young also got a technical, but stayed in the game.

Young and Jodie Meeks each scored 21 points for the injury-jinxed Lakers, who welcomed Young, Hill and Steve Nash back into the mix and had 12 players in uniform for the first time since March 4.