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Wall leads Wizards past Magic

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Updated 12 months ago on
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ORLANDO, Fla. — All-Star point guard John Wall left no doubt Thursday night that he would be the one leading the Washington Wizards this season — at both ends of the floor.

Wall had 30 points and 12 assists, but he also played a disruptive brand of defense that brought his teammates to life, delivering on preseason promise to become a more complete leader.

“I’m like the head of the snake, both offensively and defensively,” Wall said. “I knew we couldn’t start this season 0-2, so I had to come out more aggressively.”

The Wizards, who lost their opener Tuesday in Miami, roared to a 17-point third-quarter lead, then held off a late Magic charge when Wall re-entered the game and slammed the door shut.

“He’s the one everyone feeds off of,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “If he’s not into it defensively, then everyone senses that. Tonight he was into it.”

The Magic, who trailed most of the game, closed to 100-98 with 44 seconds remaining before Wall scored the final five points to give the Wizards a 105-98 win.

All Washington starters scored in double figures. Center Marcin Gortat had 20 points and 12 rebounds. Forward Paul Pierce added 16 points, and forward Nene and guard Garrett Temple had 12 each.

“He (Wall) is our All-Star. He’s our best player. We need him to take charge.”

The Magic were led by center Nikola Vucevic with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Reserve guard Ben Gordon had 22 points and forward Evan Fournier added 21.

After opening with two road games, the Wizards (1-1) will play their home opener Saturday against Milwaukee. The Magic (0-2) return to play Saturday at home against Toronto.

The Magic shot 51.4 percent (37 of 72), but they were hurt by 18 turnovers, including eight in the first quarter, when they fell behind early and spent much of the night playing from behind.

“We’re not good enough to have that many turnovers,” Vucevic said. “That hurt us. I thought we played them pretty well, but we can’t allow ourselves to dig a hole like that. They were in the playoffs last year, so they know how to get it done.”

The Wizards outscored the Magic 28-15 in the third quarter to take control after a relatively tight first half. Wall had 11 points and Pierce had seven in the period while the Magic stumbled through six more turnovers. Washington led by as many as 17 points late in the third.

“We got ourselves into some trouble early turning it over,” Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. “But I love the urgency our guys were playing with to get back in it. So I will take some good from this one.”

Wall hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer before intermission to give the Wizards a 54-51 advantage. He had 10 points and nine assists at intermission.

The Magic shot 57.1 percent from the field (20 of 35) in the first half but were hurt by those early turnovers, including eight in the first nine minutes. They trailed by as many as seven points in the first quarter.

Fournier led all scorers at halftime with 14 points. Vucevic followed with 12, Nene with 11 and Gortat, Temple and Wall with 10 each.

The Magic last led 51-49 just before halftime.

Both teams were coming off double-digit losses in their openers. The Magic lost by 17 points Tuesday in New Orleans. The Wizards were beaten by 12 in Miami.

NOTES: Veteran F Channing Frye made his Magic debut on Thursday night. Frye, a free agent signee this summer, missed Tuesday’s opener and the entire exhibition schedule with a strained left knee. He played with a brace on the knee Thursday. … F Kyle O’Quinn, who started Tuesday for the Magic, sat out Thursday with a sprained left ankle. The Magic, who lost all four regular-season games to the Wizards last season, were without G Victor Oladipo, who is sidelined indefinitely after surgery to repair a facial fracture. … F Nene and returned Thursday after missing the Wizards’ opener Wednesday night because of a one-game suspension that stemmed from leaving the bench during an altercation against the Chicago Bulls earlier this month. … Wizards coach Randy Wittman is adamant about the kind of team he needs and expects this season. “We’ve got to be a tough, hard-nosed team,” Wittman said before the game. “That’s the way this team’s got to play.”

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