WASHINGTON — Twice it happened. John Wall poked the ball away from Chris Paul, and the ball deflected off Paul's leg and out of bounds.
Such defensive moments from Wall were just as important as his spin-move, up-and-under layup or any of his many assists. And they helped him beat Paul head-to-head for first time in his career.
Wall controlled the game with 10 points and 11 assists, while Paul struggled with a season-high six turnovers Friday night as the Washington Wizards snapped the Los Angeles Clippers' nine-game winning streak with a 104-96 victory.
"He isn't going to tell you that, but I know this kid well enough to tell you that he was waiting for this game, he wanted to win this game," Wizards center Marcin Gortat said. "And this is the huge improvement from John from the Day 1: It wasn't about who was going to score more points — (it was) who's going to lead the team to win the game."
Wall, who had been 0-6 against Paul in games when both played, had an impact far greater than his stat line. He turned the game with a blistering sequence late in the first half that included an acrobatic assist to Bradley Beal for a 3-pointer, a 3-pointer of his own, a from-behind block of Glen Davis' shot in the paint, and one of the poke-the-ball takeaways off Paul.
The Wizards closed the half with a 12-2 run to lead 57-42 and didn't allow the Clippers any closer than eight points in a second half. Fans serenaded Wall with "M-V-P!" in the final minute, and coach Randy Wittman lauded a commitment to defense from Wall that used to come "every so often."
"I just want to be a great player, so you've got to be committed for 48 minutes and when things aren't going offensively you've got to keep playing the right way," Wall said regarding his improved play on defense.
"John knows that Chris has been over the last few years the more-heralded point guard, but he was up for the challenge," Wizards forward Paul Pierce said. "It wasn't comfortable for Paul, even though he had a lot of points, a couple of assists, he wasn't comfortable out there."
Beal scored a season-high 29 points, and Gortat had 18 for the Wizards, who have won seven of eight. Wall has at least 11 assists in seven straight games.
"I thought it he was into CP most of the game, bodied him, blocked shots," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "He's a freak athletically, and in the past I thought he only used to be on the offensive end."
Paul's line was also deceptive if the turnovers are ignored: 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
"I pride myself on (not turning the ball over), making right decisions, passing the ball, ball-handling," Paul said. "I don't let no one steal it from me. Tonight I was just all over the place."
YOU LOOK FAMILIAR: The game was rife with fascinating connections. Wittman and Rivers were teammates in Atlanta for five seasons in the 1980s. Rivers coached Pierce for nine seasons in Boston. Pierce was recruited to Washington last summer by assistant coach Sam Cassell, who then left to join Rivers' staff.
Clippers: F Spencer Hawes left with a bruised left knee late in the first quarter and did not return. X-rays were negative.
Wizards: Their 11-2 record at the Verizon Center represents the best 13-game home start in franchise history.
Clippers: At Milwaukee on Saturday.
Wizards: Home to Utah on Sunday.
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