Wiz let 25-point lead shrink to 3 but beat Blazers 105-97
WASHINGTON (AP) There was less than a minute left on the clock, the Washington Wizards appeared set to hold on to beat the Portland Trail Blazers after letting a 25-point lead dwindle to three, and yet there went John Wall, launching himself into the stands, tumbling five rows deep or more, slapping a loose ball back into play.
''I thought he was crazy for a minute,'' teammate Bradley Beal said. ''But that's him. He lays it out on the line, each and every game. ... You can't knock his hustle.''
Another teammate, Rasual Butler, took a more pragmatic view of Wall's foray into the courtside seats late in Washington's 105-97 victory over Portland on Monday night, the Wizards' fourth consecutive win.
''I'm thinking that I want him to land safely,'' Butler said. ''That's our guy. We need him.''
Wizards coach Randy Wittman's take was similar: ''That's the main thing you worry about - that he doesn't twist a knee or turn an ankle.''
Wall came up just shy of a triple-double - 21 points, 11 assists, nine rebounds - added a couple of blocks, and ran the Wizards' high-speed offense to the tune of a 25-4 edge in fast-break points.
''He's everything. He's the franchise guy. We go as he goes,'' Paul Pierce said. ''We feed off of his energy on defense. We feed off how he creates for others.''
The Wizards, who slid from the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference to No. 5 entering Monday, got 23 points and seven assists from Beal, 16 points apiece from Pierce and Marcin Gortat, and 12 points and seven rebounds from Nene, who returned after a two-game absence.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 24 points and 12 rebounds, and Nicolas Batum added 12 points and a season-high 15 boards for Portland, which had won three games in a row and eight of its last nine.
''It was tough, because they were doubling me all night,'' Aldridge said. ''So I was just trying to find my spots to take my shot quick.''
On a key late sequence, with the outcome still in doubt, Wall blocked a shot at one end - Portland pleaded for a goaltending call - then sprinted the other way and kicked the ball over to Pierce, whose 3-pointer made it 99-90 with 2 minutes left.
Pierce pounded his chest. Wall raised his arms then pointed at himself. Portland coach Terry Stotts, meanwhile, was called for a technical, and Beal made the free throw.
''Yeah, I thought it hit the backboard first. That would be a goaltend,'' Stotts said afterward. ''That's why I was upset. It was a big point in the game.''
Trail Blazers: Portland trailed 60-40 at halftime, matching its biggest deficit after two quarters this season.
Wizards: The Wizards were barely better at foul shots (16 of 26, 61.5 percent) than 3-pointers (7 of 12, 58.3 percent). ... This was only the 26th of 67 games this season that the Wizards had their preferred starting lineup on the floor for the tipoff: Wall, Beal, Pierce, Nene and Gortat. The Wizards are 14-12 in those games.
Beal had his best all-around game after missing time with a right leg injury, making 8 of 13 shots, including 4 for 4 on 3-pointers. ''I just told him, `Go out and play. Don't think about anything. Don't think about a missed shot or a mistake,''' Wittman said. ''And I thought he did that tonight.''
COMEBACK FALLS SHORT
After being down 71-46 about 4 minutes into the second half, the Blazers got as close as 83-80 on CJ McCollum's 17-foot jumper with a little under 9 minutes remaining. But they couldn't pull even.
Trailing by 25, Portland's Damian Lillard said, ''At that point, we were in the huddle like, `All right, let's get over the hump. Let's make our push.' And it just didn't go our way from there.''
Trail Blazers: At Miami on Wednesday
Wizards: At Utah on Wednesday.
Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich