By Benjamin Standig, The Sports Xchange
WASHINGTON — The Washington Wizards returned home following a successful five-game road trip, but with the stink of suspect defense.
That stench won’t leave for now after the Dallas Mavericks showered them with one deep shot after another in the fourth quarter. John Wall’s left foot injury added yet another unwanted element.
Harrison Barnes scored 22 points and the Dallas Mavericks opened the final period with a 24-7 run as they rallied past the Washington Wizards 112-107 on Wednesday night.
Dirk Nowitzki had 10 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter for the Mavericks, who swept the season series from the Wizards. Dallas outscored Washington 39-27 in the fourth for its highest scoring quarter of the season.
This came after the Wizards (41-26) returned home following a 4-1 Western Conference road trip highlighted by several massive comeback wins and capped by Monday’s 119-104 loss at the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Wall had 26 points and 11 assists for the Wizards on Wednesday. Bradley Beal scored 24 points.
“It was our defense again,” Beal said.
Poor defense plagued the current third seed in the East throughout the trip. That didn’t change with the return home. where they owned a 26-9 record. Dallas shot 50.6 percent from the field and made 14 of 32 on 3-point attempts, including 7 of 12 in the fourth quarter.
“I thought today, we were one or two plays away from making this a game,” Nowitzki said. “With the amount of shooters we have … we can always make two 3s and make a quick run. So that’s what happened.”
No argument from the Wizards, who surrendered 121 points per game on the road trip.
“We were letting guys have open 3’s, layups,” Beal said. “Pretty much whatever they want. It was our defense that lost the game.”
Washington briefly lost Wall when the All-Star limped off the court with 1:26 remaining in the first half after he awkwardly fell following a layup attempt Noel blocked. Wall returned and played most of the second half. X-rays on the injured foot were negative, but he said, “it’s pretty sore.”
As whether he would play Friday against Chicago, Wall said, ” I have no idea right now, to be honest.”
Nervous energy spread across the home crowd as Wall remained crumpled on the court late in the second quarter. Moments after Washington announced the All-Star suffered a sprained left foot, Wall bounded back onto the court and started the second half with the Wizards leading 57-53.
He finished with his 44th double-double of the season and played the entire third quarter, finishing the period with six points and four assists as Washington pushed the margin to 12. Barnes scored 13 in the third period.
Dallas had lost two in a row, including 100-78 at the Toronto Raptors on Monday. Seth Curry had 19 points, Nerlens Noel 12 and Nicolas Brussino added 11 on Wednesday.
Brussino added surprising production. He drained back-to-back 3-pointers and Noel dunked an offensive putback for a 97-87 lead with 4:46 left after trailing 74-62 in the third quarter, capping a 35-13 run.
“Nico’s had a lot of good runs this year where he goes in the game and holds his own,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said of the of the rookie swingman from Argentina. “He hasn’t put up gaudy stats necessarily, but he makes open shots. He’s got a good basketball IQ and he knows how to play the game.”
The Mavericks kept the comeback door open by missing four of eight free throws. Wall sank two for Washington as the Wizards trailed 109-107 with six seconds left, but Dallas made three of four from the line to seal the win.
Bojan Bogdanovic scored 19 points for the Wizards, who lost 113-105 at Dallas on Jan. 3. Washington went 25-7 in between losses to Dallas. Otto Porter had 14 points and 10 rebounds.
“The one thing I love about coaching this team is we always figure it out,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “We always try to get better. Even after a tough loss — you can’t point fingers. Everybody has to do their job and everybody is responsible for losses and wins. We have to figure it out together, but we have to get better defensively.”