LOS ANGELES (AP) — John Wall scored 34 points and Washington rallied in the fourth quarter to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 119-108 on Tuesday night, clinching the Southeast Division title for its first division crown in 38 years.
Wall shot 14 of 25 and Bradley Beal was held to 16 points on 7-of-16 shooting, but the Wizards ended the longest division-title drought in NBA history with their fourth straight victory.
“I didn’t know that,” coach Scott Brooks said before the game. “Now we’re fighting for playoff positioning.”
When the franchise last claimed a division title in 1978-79, it was known as the Bullets of the Atlantic Division and played in suburban Landover, Maryland. The team had won its lone NBA championship the previous season and went on to lose the 1979 Finals to the Seattle SuperSonics.
From 1979-80 on, Washington has had one of the worst winning percentages in the league, and while the team has made the playoffs 14 times in that span, it hasn’t gotten past the second round.
Washington put the divisional slump in the past by outscoring the Lakers 37-13 in the fourth.
The Wizards opened on a 19-6 run to tie it at 101 with their starters on the bench for much of the spurt. Wall returned with his team down four and hit a layup and stole Russell’s bad pass for a fast-break one-handed tying dunk.
Beal came back, too, and he and Wall combined to score Washington’s next seven points for a 108-104 lead.
Kelly Oubre Jr. hit a 3-pointer to make it 113-108, effectively finishing off the Lakers.
D’Angelo Russell led Los Angeles with 28 points and Jordan Clarkson added 22 points.
The Lakers led by 16 in the third, when they outscored the Wizards 28-14 to start. Wall tossed up an air ball during the Lakers’ run before making his team’s last two baskets to pull them to 95-92 going into the fourth.
The Lakers have lost 16 of 18 since the All-Star break and have eight games remaining before missing the playoffs yet again.
The Lakers kept it close in the first half, leading 58-55 at the break.
Rookie David Nwaba’s layup at the buzzer allowed the Lakers to tie it at 27 to end the first quarter. Larry Nance Jr. blocked Jason Smith and Russell came up with the ball, feeding Nwaba on the fastbreak.
Wizards: They didn’t have a field goal over the final 4:13 of the opening quarter, with four different Lakers blocking five shots in that stretch. … They opened their five-game trip with a 12-point win over defending NBA champion Cleveland on Saturday. … They have won five straight over the Lakers in L.A.
Lakers: Coach Luke Walton turned 37 on Tuesday. … They lost the season series 2-0, getting beaten by eight points on Feb. 2.
Lakers forward Brandon Ingram sat out his second straight with right patellar tendinitis after playing in the team’s first 72 games, including 33 starts. He’s averaging 9.0 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.0 assists as a rookie.
“He gives us a dynamic presence out there,” Walton said. “He’s grown so much as a player. Not only are we losing some scoring, but defense.”
Walton said Ingram wasn’t pleased when told he wouldn’t be playing.
“That’s a good thing,” he said of Ingram’s frustration.
Wizards: At Clippers on Wednesday in last back-to-back of season. They are 19-11 in such games. They beat L.A. by seven points at home in December.
Lakers: At Minnesota on Thursday in a rematch of last Friday’s game in L.A., where the Lakers won by 11 points in their first overtime game of the season.
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