“It was a good win for us,” Coach Scott Brooks said. “We’re 5-5 in the last 10. With what we’ve gone through, I think it’s pretty solid. Now, we still have to build on it. We can’t rest. We can’t relax. We’ve got a lot of games coming up — that’s what we want, and we’ve just got to keep chipping away.”
The Wizards (8-17) broke a long dry spell to post one of their strongest offensive outings of the past month and shot 52.2 percent overall, including 40 percent from three-point range.
For an emblem of their return to form, forward Davis Bertans will do — the long out-of-rhythm three-point specialist had 18 points and made 5 of 6 from beyond the arc, one off his season high.
“I just had the feeling . . . this is it,” Bertans said. “I don’t know how I can explain that, but [in pregame warmups] the shots were falling and I had the feeling, I know it’s going in.”
Bradley Beal led the offense as usual with 37 points on 14-for-24 shooting and had eight rebounds. A little less usual was that he had plenty of backup — six other players reached double figures, including Moritz Wagner, who started at center for the second game in a row and scored 15 points.
Russell Westbrook played his first complete back-to-back of the season and had his sixth triple-double with 16 points, 15 assists and 13 rebounds. The 32-year-old point guard has been on a resting plan since he joined the Wizards in the December trade for Wall — as he was last season with the Rockets — and he was able to play on consecutive days in part because of the timing between Sunday’s 1 p.m. tip-off and Monday’s 7 p.m. start. Brooks said Westbrook had been working toward playing consecutive games for some time.
Rui Hachimura added 13 points and nine rebounds, and Robin Lopez and Raul Neto each had 12 points off the bench. Both Westbrook and Beal saw steps forward in terms of building habits and playing with effort, their two biggest critiques of recent weeks.
“I think we did a good job,” Westbrook said. “We were playing hard. We didn’t put ourselves in a hole and then have to work our way back, and that allows us to play the game the right way.”
Wall’s return game wasn’t nearly as dramatic as his first meeting against his former team in January in Houston, in part because no fans are allowed at Capital One Arena because of the coronavirus pandemic.
He still clearly relished an on-court fight.
The point guard faded in the second half after a strong start but finished with season highs in both points (29) and assists (11). He shared hugs with multiple members of the Wizards’ coaching staff as well as Beal before leaving the court he used to call home.
“It was difficult, you know what I mean? I play for the fans. I played for the city,” Wall said of his homecoming before mentioning his late mother. “I’m an emotional, passionate person. I’ve been for 10 years, so you know I wanted to see those guys here and see them here to support me. It definitely was difficult. I also wanted to have my first game that I would’ve played back in D.C., have my mom in the stands. She’s been there for everything, and knowing she’s not here, that was difficult. She would probably be Row 10.”
Wall was back in town, but a host of teammates stayed in Houston. The Rockets (11-16) were without four key players Monday: Eric Gordon (right groin soreness), P.J. Tucker (left quadriceps contusion), Christian Wood (sprained right ankle) and Victor Oladipo (right foot strain) — a group that includes three of the team’s top four scorers.
In their absence, David Nwaba scored 19 points for the Rockets in a supporting role. Jae’Sean Tate had 18 points, and Danuel House added 17.
Wall carried the team in the first half. Although he barely glanced at the tribute video the Wizards played on the video board midway through the first quarter, the five-time all-star made his motivation apparent. He scored 22 points and had seven assists in 19 minutes before halftime, knifing through the paint and juking Washington defenders as if on skates with his repaired Achilles’ tendon.
Beal gave Wall his due and then some after the game, saying he thought his former teammate exceeded even Beal’s expectations of what he could be coming off his injury. Even so, Monday was more about a Wizards win for Beal — the type of victory he could see turning into a streak.
“Maybe it’s the vibes, just energy. The energy you have once you start playing well as a team, you see a few shots going in, the rejuvenation is there,” Beal said. “I really don’t know. It’s just good to be able to see we’re playing the right way, and confident.”