WASHINGTON — A slow start to the season turned into Washington’s best November in 29 years.
John Wall had 26 points and 12 assists, Trevor Ariza scored 24 points and made five 3-pointers, and the Wizards beat the Atlanta Hawks 108-101 on Saturday night.
The Wizards lost their first three games and seven of their first nine, but have now won six of their last eight. They won eight games in November for the first time since 1984.
“This was a good month for us. It was a tough start to the month, to the season. We didn’t want to get the start we had, but it happened,” coach Randy Wittman said.
Washington has played the last four games without starting guard Bradley Beal, hasn’t had first-round draft choice Otto Porter at all, and still managed to nearly break even. Their 8-9 record isn’t what they want it to be, but still makes the Wizards one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference.
With the Hawks’ loss, there are just two teams in the conference with winning records.
“I really don’t want to look at it like that. I want to see how good we can be, but if you look at the conference, a lot of teams are kind of in the middle right now. We’re trying to find ourselves as a team, trying to put it together. Hopefully we can get it going. I think we will,” Atlanta center Al Horford said.
Martell Webster added 19 points for Washington and also had five 3-pointers. Nene, who returned after missing Friday’s game at Indiana with a right Achilles tendon injury, had 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Paul Millsap had 23 points and 10 rebounds for Atlanta, which cut an 18-point, third-quarter deficit to 81-79 with 9:42 left, but could not get closer.
Horford added 16 points and Jeff Teague had 15 for the Hawks.
Ariza scored eight points in the final 9:20 to help secure the win.
“We’re showing growth. We’re showing maturity. I feel we’re ready to take the next step and become a playoff team,” Ariza said.
Washington got some of its roughest road games out of the way, losing to Oklahoma City, Dallas and San Antonio in a rough three-game trip. The Wizards also lost to Miami and Indiana on the road.
“It wasn’t the easiest schedule to start with. I think it might be a positive in the long run playing against some top quality teams on the road early in the season,” Wittman said.
Washington took the lead early in the first quarter and led 28-20 after one. Thanks to two 3-pointers late in the second quarter by Webster, the Wizards led 54-44 at halftime.
Washington hit on five of its first six shots in the third quarter to take a 66-48 lead with 8:12 to play.
The Hawks answered with an 11-0 run to cut the lead to 66-59 with 4:20 to play, and Washington led 79-70 after three.
Wall had his first three games of 30-plus points from Nov. 22-26. He followed it with a 19-point performance on Wednesday at Milwaukee, but had a bad night against the Pacers on Friday, shooting just 4 for 14. Saturday night was much better.
“When we’re healthy, I feel we can compete with anybody,” Wall said.
“We didn’t panic because we knew what kind of team we had. We have a team that’s capable of being in the playoffs,” Wall said.
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