The Wizards locked up their first division title in 38 years on Tuesday night by beating the Lakers, but more important in the short-term is the fact they held off the Raptors for yet another day.
The Lakers have had their fair of struggles throughout the season with their performance in the third quarter that has often times played themselves out of games. Anchored by an 9-0 run from the second unit to start the fourth quarter, the Wizards would go on a 49-22 run over the final 14:53. But after nursing a 58-55 halftime lead over the Wizards, the Lakers avoided their season-long trend of falling apart in the third quarter.
Despite season-long struggles blending his skills as a scorer and playmaker, Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell provided the total package Tuesday with 28 points, nine assists and six rebounds while going 10 for 21 from the field.
"We were playing unselfish", head coach Luke Walton said. This is first time the Wizards have won a Southeast Division since it was created when the league expanded to 30 teams in 2004. The Wizards are third in the East and just one game ahead of Toronto, the hottest team in the conference with a six-game winning streak.
John Wall, Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards battle Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night as they aim to continue rising the ranks of the NBA's Eastern Conference.
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What he got instead was much better than a win. But in three of their last four losses, they have failed to eclipse the 100-point mark on offense. It deserved superlatives. The Lakers moved the ball well and because of that they got good shots.
The Lakers have lost 16 of 18 since the All-Star break and have eight games remaining before missing the playoffs yet again.
Russell added five assists in the second half, but he cooled down significantly shooting 2-of-8 from the field for eight points.
"He gives us a dynamic presence out there", Walton said. Wall topped 20 points on 10 occasions this month and is averaging 24.2 points and 10.5 assists. "He's grown so much as a player". They are 19-11 in such games. In fact, Wall's final stint on the court consisted of seven minutes and two seconds during which time the Wizards outscored the Lakers by 15 points.
By the time the final buzzer sounded, the Lakers had magically handed the Wizards an 11-point victory, 119-108.