The Washington Wizards are a .500 basketball team for the first time in years, and John Wall wants to build on the early success.
Wall had 16 points and 13 assists to lead Washington to a 98-80 victory over the Orlando Magic on Monday night.
Trevor Ariza scored 24 points, Nene had 14 and Marcin Gortat finished with 13 as Washington (9-9) got to .500 for the first time since it split its first four games of the 2009-10 season, when Wall was just a touted freshman at Kentucky.
“We are playing basketball the right way, trusting our teammates and trusting our defensive concepts,” Wall said.
With top scorer Bradley Beal out of the lineup for the fifth straight game, Ariza supplied the offense. He was 8 for 9 from the field and made each of his four 3-point attempts, three off passes from Wall.
The Wizards have won seven of nine and are 4-1 since Beal went out with a leg injury.
Reaching .500 is no small feat for a Washington team that opened 0-8 in 2011-12 and 0-12 last year.
“These guys lost a lot of games last year,” Gortat said. “Everybody’s excited we’re finally winning.”
Arron Afflalo scored 21 points for Orlando, and Victor Oladipo added 13 points and six rebounds in a special game for the rookie. Oladipo is from nearby Upper Marlboro, Md.
He had a tough assignment against Washington, trying to keep up with Wall.
“He’s a good player. Gets everybody else involved,” Oladipo said. “He’s improved on his jump shot. He’s a one-man fast break.”
Maurice Harkless had 16 points, but the Magic still lost for the ninth time in 12 games.
Washington outscored Orlando 30-19 in the second quarter to take a 52-41 lead at the break.
The Magic scored six straight points to pull to 62-55 in the second half, but the Wizards responded with a 9-0 run. Gortat keyed the surge with a pair of jumpers and Wall had a big jumper and a 3-pointer.
Washington stretched its lead to as many as 21 points in the fourth quarter.
“Their bigs demanded a lot of attention,” Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. “Nene was a force in the inside, Gortat was a force in the inside, and we had to react a little bit, and Ariza made 3s, and there you have it.”
Ariza helped the Wizards get off to a fast start, making two 3-pointers and a fast-break dunk during Washington’s game-opening 15-2 run. The surge by the Wizards set the stage for a see-saw first half.
Oladipo steadied Orlando with seven quick points. Then, with Wall on the bench, Afflalo scored the final eight points of a 10-0 run that bridged the quarters and gave Orlando a 24-22 early in the second quarter.
The Magic stretched their advantage to five points. But Wall helped the Wizards get back on track offensively and regain the lead for good.
Ariza, Nene and Wall combined for all the points as Washington scored 24 in the final 6:07 of the half. When Wall hit an off-balance 3-pointer at the buzzer, the Wizards had an 11-point lead.
“It’s just something we knew we could do. We’re not satisfied,” said Ariza, who has made nine of his last 10 3-point tries. “We want to continue this winning thing, make it a tradition around here.”
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