LOS ANGELES – In terms of helping a team’s position for the playoffs, winning the Southeast Division title for the first time – and their first since 1979 – doesn’t mean anything for the Wizards.
Still, it means a lot. They swept the season series with the L.A. Lakers on Tuesday, 119-108 at Staples Center, coming from 16 down with a fourth-quarter rally started by the second unit and closed out by stars John Wall and Bradley Beal.
The win keeps the Wizards (46-28) ahead of the red-hot Toronto Raptors (45-29) in the East.
John Wall (game-high 34 points, 14 assists, four steals) got them out to a 20-8 lead in the first quarter of a game that appeared headed to a blowout. By the end of it, a layup by David Nwaba (eight points) tied it at 27 at the buzzer and the tone changed for good.
The Wizards are 2-0 on this road trip with their next game Wednesday, also at Staples Center, vs. the L.A. Clippers.
Wall led them back midway through the fourth when he stole the ball from DeAngelo Russell to draw them even at 101. From there, it was the defensive pressure that had been missing for most of the game that sealed the outcome.
Beal (16 points) made a pair of foul shots and then converted a three-point play with 2:51 left to give them breathing room at 108-104.
Otto Porter (16 points), Marcin Gortat (seven points, 10 rebounds) had production early but Ian Mahinmi (10 points, five rebounds) keyed the comeback with his play in the middle in the fourth.
Russell (28 points, nine assists) caught fire early by making 4 of 6 threes and Tyler Ennis (22 points) made his first two. Then Jordan Clarkson (22 points) heated up and the shots kept falling.
The Lakers (21-53), however, couldn’t keep it going as turnovers and empty possessions cost them in the end.
A catch-and-shoot three-pointer from Kelly Oubre (14 points) made it 113-108 and then Markieff Morris (seven points, 10 rebounds) forced a turnover with a deflection on a pass from Julius Randle (six points, six rebounds).
--Faster starts have been the focus for coach Scott Brooks. When his team beat the Lakers almost two months ago, the Wizards allowed 12 of 22 shooting for 29 first-quarter points. But they forced 15 first-half turnovers. In this one, the Lakers shot 11 off 27 in the first quarter, or 40.7%. By halftime, they had six fewer turnovers to keep Wall out of transition.
--Beal could’ve set the franchise record for made three-pointers in a season. He went into the game with 203, two shy of the record set by Gilbert Arenas in 2006-07. Beal made his first long ball but couldn’t find his range after that. Beal finished 1-for-5 from three. Before this season, Beal’s career high for made threes in a season was 138 in 2013-14.
--In the last month, the Lakers have allowed 139, 137, 133, 125, 122, 119 (twice), 118, 115 and 110 points (twice).
--Rookie Brandon Ingram (right knee soreness) was inactive along with Nick Young. Corey Brewer (nine points) started in Ingram’s place.
--Morris knocked himself out of the rotation by picking up his third foul with 1:26 left in the second quarter. It’s why he played just 27 minutes.
--The Lakers repeatedly switched Randle onto Beal and he didn’t always attack the matchup the way he should’ve each time. On the and-1 to make it a two-possession game, he finally did it with a stepback jumper. The spacing was better as he could size up Randle from the top of the key rather than the slot where he had fewer options.
--Mahinmi was a forced in the fourth quarter with stopping layups at the rim, jumping passing lanes and getting deflections to disrupt Los Angeles. It seems every game for him lately is his new “best performance of the season.” But that’s why he was brought in for $64 million. Gortat only played eight of 24 minutes in the second half.