Wall's presence making a huge difference
The fans were already coming to their feet. The Wizards were on the way to their biggest third quarter of the season, running away with a game they had momentarily let get away from them just before halftime.
Then John Wall sent Ish Smith sprawling backward with a behind-the-back dribble, and the roars were everywhere. He completed the move by finding Kevin Seraphin for a buzzer-beating slam, and there was newfound euphoria at Verizon Center.
The Wizards' third straight victory, a 120-91 dismantling of the lowly Orlando Magic before 14,658, became the latest evidence of a franchise transformed by the return of its star point guard.
"[Smith] told me he wasn't going nowhere, and then I hit him with another move," Wall said. "All I heard and saw was just the crowd going wild."
With Emeka Okafor (season high-matching 19 points, 11 rebounds) and A.J. Price (season-high 18 points) leading six players in double figures, the Wizards scored more points, won by the biggest margin, had more assists (32) and fast-break points (29) and shot better from the field (56.1 percent) than they had all season.
Wall had 12 points and six assists in his second game back from a knee injury, but there's no way to measure how different the Wizards (7-28) have become overnight with him back in the fold.
"He brings an added dimension that nobody has that is on this team," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "His energy, his speed, his enthusiasm of playing, his delivery of the ball. He sees the floor very well, and now guys see that."
Wall's teammates played like front-runners from the outset. Okafor piled up eight points and eight rebounds in the first quarter. Trevor Ariza blocked Arron Afflalo (season-low two points) from behind and raced down for an easy slam to make it 22-18. Jan Vesely (10 points, seven rebounds, four assists) scored eight of 11 points during one stretch, starting with an alley-oop slam from Price and finishing with a double-clutch layup.
The Magic (13-24) were one game removed from a 10-game losing streak but slashed Washington's lead to six at halftime after a 13-0 run that included eight straight points from Jameer Nelson (19 points). The Wizards immediately pushed it back to double digits after the break en route to 37 points in the third period, miles better than their previous high of 26. It was all downhill by the time Wall set up Bradley Beal (17 points) for a slam and a 92-75 lead.
"These games have not been flukes," Price said. "We have just been playing very well, and really it doesn't matter who the opponent is."
The Wizards now embark on a four-game road trip that starts at Sacramento (13-24), but all of a sudden every contest seems winnable.
"These last three, four games, this has been building," Wittman said. "Our guys hopefully have bought into this and see it. This is how we have to play."
Jordan Crawford (sore left ankle) and Cartier Martin (hyperextended left knee) each missed their third straight game, while Trevor Booker was sidelined by a sprained left ankle.