Wizards aim to remain hot at home versus Wolves

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Washington Wizards are arguably the top team in the Eastern Conference and have been even more impressive at home.

The Wizards will try to stay on track Tuesday in the finale of a three-game homestand versus the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Washington has the second-best record in the East at 17-6 and the Toronto Raptors are slightly ahead at 19-6. The Wizards have won seven in a row at home and four straight overall, including Sunday's 93-84 win over the Utah Jazz.

Bradley Beal scored 22 points, John Wall had 16, eight assists, six rebounds and five steals, and Paul Pierce ended with 15 points in the win. The Wizards shot 48.7 percent and scored 25 points off 17 Utah turnovers. They also held the Jazz to 16 points in the third quarter (30-16) and improved to 14-0 when keeping opponents under 100 points.

"We didn't play our (style of) basketball in the first half," Wizards center Marcin Gortat said. "We were patient (in the second half) and started playing better."

The Wizards pushed their home record to 12-2 and are 8-1 in the past nine games. The 17-6 start is the best since an identical beginning to the 1968-69 - 1974-75 seasons. The last time Washington was 12 games over .500 was at the end of the 1978-79 campaign (54-28).

Wall and Beal have carried the Wizards so far and the latter is averaging 18.5 points in his last four games. Wall leads the Wizards with 17.7 ppg and the team is one of the toughest on defense, allowing 96.6 points.

The Wizards, who will visit Miami on Friday, are averaging 103.9 points at home and holding opponents to a 95.6 ppg clip in 14 games at the Verizon Center.

Minnesota will be on the road the next two games against Washington and Boston, and went 1-3 on a recent homestand.

The Timberwolves lost their second straight game and eighth in nine tries with Sunday's 100-94 setback to Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. Bryant passed Michael Jordan for third on the NBA's all-time scoring list and finished with 26 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer in the final minute.

Shabazz Muhammad scored a game-high 28 points and rookie Andrew Wiggins registered 16 points for the T-wolves, who made 42.2 percent of their shots and just 3-of-10 3-pointers. Minnesota trailed by 10 at 64-54 and later evened the score at 73-73 early in the fourth quarter.

Wiggins made two free throws to make it 94-94 and the Lakers took over from there thanks to Bryant's big 3-pointer. Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine said he grew up a fan and reflected on Bryant's earlier feat of passing Jordan.

"Passing Michael Jordan is a big feat. Not many people do that," LaVine said. "I mean, like, ever."

The Wolves are winless in their past three road games and have a 2-8 ledger as the visitor this season. They are 1-17 when allowing 100-plus points.

Minnesota and Washington split a pair of meetings last season and will meet again Feb. 25 in the Twin Cities. The Wizards have won two straight at home versus the T-wolves.