NEW ORLEANS — The Washington Wizards received an efficient performance in Wednesday night’s home victory against the Milwaukee Bucks from a guard who is proving to be reliable.
Former LSU player Garrett Temple scored 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting and had four assists and just two turnovers. Temple, who signed with the Wizards on Christmas Day after playing nine games in the NBA Development League, was put in the lineup when with starter Bradley Beal (sprained left ankle) and reserve A.J. Price (sore right groin) out with injuries.
Of his performance, Temple said, “I knew I was going to have to play the whole game, so I just got ready.”
Coach Randy Wittman was impressed.
“We played him darn near the whole game, and he came up big for us,” Wittman said. “It was a gutsy performance.”
The New Orleans Hornets (22-43) play the Wizards (21-42) on Friday night at the Verizon Center in Washington.
Temple had played more than 21 minutes, each time off the bench, in each of the Wizards’ three previous games, although he scored just two points in each one. However, he and Wizards third-year point guard John Wall were the only true guards available when Washington played Milwaukee.
The duo played more than 41 minutes each, with Wall getting 23 points and 10 assists, his second consecutive impressive game. Wall had 27 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds in a victory Monday against Cleveland.
Wittman said Temple, with his ball-handling and defense, helps take pressure off Wall.
“We just have a chemistry,” said Temple, who also had filled in at point guard while Wall was injured and when Beal injured his right wrist earlier. “John is a scorer, and I’m going to pressure guys defensively.”
Wall’s play of late is why the Hornets, who have lost four of their past five games, may find themselves in a worse position Friday night than they did in their last game against Washington on Dec. 12 at New Orleans Arena. With Wall still out rehabilitating a knee injury, guard Jordan Crawford scored 26 points in a 77-70 Wizards win in which points obviously were at a premium. Crawford has since been traded to the Celtics.
Before beating New Orleans in the previous meeting, Washington entered the game with a 2-15 record, 0-8 on the road. The Hornets held the Wizards to 10 points in the first quarter and just 36 in the first half, still a season low for Washington. However, the Wizards turned the table on the Hornets in the second half, holding them to 28 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter when they were outscored by Crawford, who had 12.
The Wizards showed Wednesday they are still capable of turning the tables. In beating the Bucks 106-93, Washington outscored Milwaukee 31-15 in the fourth quarter after being outscored 34-15 in the third. The Wizards led 60-43 at halftime but just 77-75 entering the third quarter.
“In the fourth quarter, we were able to get some stops, but I think the big thing is we got some pace to the game,” Temple said. “We were able to get layups and open jumpers.”
Wall, 6-foot-4, stands to present at big problems for the Hornets. He is one of the NBA’s fastest players, and the Hornets have struggled much of the season against dribble penetration of elite point guards. That certainly has been true of late, with coach Monty Williams seemingly reiterating after each game, “We can’t stay in front of anybody.”
With Wall out, the Wizards were like the Washington Generals, going 5-28. Since his return, the Wizards have gone 16-14. They were 7-5 in February, beating six teams — the Clippers, Knicks, Nets, Nuggets, Rockets at home and Bucks on the road — with a 60.3 combined winning percentage at the time.
With Temple starting alongside Wall, the Wizards have gone 6-5.
“Garrett just comes in plays his role and does the job defensively,” Wall said. “We’re winning with him in there.”
The game is the second leg of a three-game road swing for the Hornets, who lost at Brooklyn on Tuesday. The Hornets play at Minnesota on Sunday, then return home for a game Monday against Golden State.
The Hornets have signed power forward Louis Amundson and released center/power forward Henry Sims. Amundson played one game with the Chicago Bulls after signing for the rest of the season. Sims, who was signed to a 10-day contract on March 3, played in two games with the Hornets and had four points and two rebounds in 2.5 minutes.