NBA News Wire
Wall, Wizards spoil Nash’s return to Lakers
LOS ANGELES — Guard John Wall, the Washington Wizard’s floor leader, came away not only relieved by Friday night’s slump-busting victory at Staples Center, but with an enhanced appreciation of the point guard he played against who is more than 16 years his senior.
“No matter how old Steve Nash is, he’s still efficient running the pick and roll,” Wall said after scoring 28 points and adding 14 assists to lead the Wizards to a 117-107 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers and the 40-year-old Nash, who was playing his first game since Feb. 11. “It doesn’t look like he missed a beat to me.”
With Nash on a minutes restriction, getting a season-high 11 assists and five points in just 18 minutes, the Lakers made it close down the stretch, cutting their deficit to seven with 2:14 left before the Wizards prevailed.
“When we get in trouble, we dribble too much,” Washington coach Randy Wittman said. “When we’re moving the ball, like we did early tonight, and we don’t over-dribble, we’re a good team.”
Wall, who had nine assists in the first quarter en route to his 26th double-double this season, said: “We’ve got to do a better job — especially me — of keeping the ball moving. I know we’ve got to get back on the right track, pushing the ball and moving the ball.”
The Wizards did that early with a handful of three-pointers, backed up by transition baskets, in the first and second quarters.
“It was great tonight,” Wall said, “coming back and getting on the winning track” after opening the trip with losses at Sacramento and at Portland.
“I think we got back in the rhythm of making shots. What our team has to do a better job at, including me also, is that we’re not making shots, we still have to compete and do it on the defensive end.”
Guard Bradley Beal added 18 points as Washington (36-33) snapped its two-game losing streak. Despite getting 21 points by swingman Nick Young, in his first game since Feb. 23, Los Angeles (22-46) has lost four in its current streak, and its past three against the Wizards over two seasons. Guard Jodie Meeks also scored 21 for the Lakers.
A scuffle broke out with 2:14 left between Young and Wizards forward Drew Gooden, as they locked arms going for a rebound and violently tried to break apart. When Gooden fell to the floor, Young ran over and shoved him.
“I felt like he was trying to go WWE on me,” Young said. “It got my adrenaline going.”
Gooden was ejected on a flagrant foul, and Lakers forward Jordan Hill was ejected for his second technical foul of the night after he charged Wizards center Marcin Gortat.
“I think we dug ourselves a hole pretty much early in the game and had to fight back into it,” Nash said of the Lakers, who trailed by 21 at one point, and by 16 with 6:33 remaining.
Nash, at one point considered done for the season after playing in just 10 games, was a surprise replacement for injured back-up point guard Jordan Farmar. Nash did not start for the first time since March 9, 2000 — when Wall was 9 years old.
“I don’t care (about not starting), I was just happy to play,” Nash said. “I really enjoy playing.”
He was the architect of a Lakers’ late third-quarter run with four assists to center Robert Sacre in a 20-10 spurt.
Washington built a 58-47 halftime lead, with Beal and Wall scoring 11 points apiece, and forward Al Harrington coming off the bench to score 11. Center Marcin Gortat, returning from a game lost to back spasms, had nine points, eight rebounds and two blocks in the first half.
Lakers reserve swingman Xavier Henry led his team with 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting in the first half.
NOTES: Lakers PG Steve Nash (left leg nerve irritation) played in his first game since Feb. 11. Nash, 40, came off the bench for the first time since March 9, 2000, when he was with Dallas. He has played in just 11 games this season. Nash has one year left on his contract and says he intends to play next season. … Los Angeles also got PF Jordan Hill (right knee) and SG/SF Nick Young (left knee) back, but SF Wesley Johnson (upper-respiratory infection) was not available. … Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said Washington SF Trevor Ariza, a former Laker (2007-09), is “playing as well as he’s ever played.” The 10-year NBA veteran is shooting a career-best 42.2 percent from 3-point range. “It’s all about hard work and putting the time in,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said of Ariza, who is averaging 14.9 points and shooting 45.9 percent from the field, his best since his last season as a Laker. … Washington C Marcin Gortat (back spasms) returned after missing Thursday’s loss at Portland. He resumed his starting role, replacing C Kevin Seraphin. … Wizards C-PF Nene (left knee) missed his 13th consecutive game.
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