WASHINGTON (AP) — John Wall had no trouble finding his rhythm after resting for two games, producing 24 points and nine assists Sunday night to lead the Washington Wizards to their highest win total in more than 30 years by beating a second-string group of Atlanta Hawks 108-99.
Washington improved to 46-34, its first time topping 45 victories since 1978-79. The Wizards closed their regular-season home schedule at 29-12 after going 22-19 last season.
They are fifth in the Eastern Conference with two games remaining and will face Toronto or Chicago to open the playoffs.
Atlanta already has clinched the East’s No. 1 seed and won a club-record 60 games, so coach Mike Budenholzer rested starters Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, Al Horford and DeMarre Carroll.
Instead, the Hawks went with a lineup of Dennis Schroder, John Jenkins, Kent Bazemore, Mike Muscala and Elton Brand. That quintet came into Sunday with a grand total of 29 starts this season.
The Wizards went ahead by as many as 18 points in the first quarter, 21 in the second, and 25 in the third. But some casual play in the fourth by Washington allowed Atlanta to get within 101-92 on Mike Scott’s 3-pointer with 5 minutes left. Wall’s steal and breakaway slam got the hosts’ lead back to 12 with 3 1/2 minutes to go.
All five Wizards starters scored in double figures, including Bradley Beal with 17.
Scott led Atlanta with 19 points.
Wall sat out Washington’s previous two games to get fit for the postseason, meaning he hadn’t played in eight days. He came out at full speed Sunday, with 13 points and six assists during a first quarter that ended with the Wizards ahead 38-22, just two points shy of the team’s highest output for any period this season.
Washington, which generally does not shoot 3-pointers much, went 7 of 11 from beyond the arc in that quarter — and mini-basketballs were tossed into the crowd after each make.
Wall made it 65-45 with 1 1/2 minutes left in the first half on a three-point play with an acrobatic scoop shot while falling after getting hip-checked in the lane by Scott.
After losing his dribble and turning the ball over to Shelvin Mack in the second quarter’s final seconds, Wall made up for it at the other end by blocking Mack’s shot.
Hawks: Budenholzer said he will “kind of just evaluate it day by day,” but expects to play his usual starting lineup in Atlanta’s next game. He didn’t say what he will do in the regular-season finale at Chicago on Wednesday. … F Paul Millsap missed his fourth consecutive game with an injured right shoulder.
Wizards: Went 54-28 as the defending league champions in 1978-79, when they were known as the Bullets and lost in the NBA Finals. … Coach Randy Wittman tightened his rotation, with only nine players getting more than 2 minutes of action. … G Garrett Temple sat out his 16th consecutive game with an injured right hamstring.
Hawks: Host the Knicks on Monday.
Wizards: At the Pacers on Tuesday.
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