The performances had been exhilarating, the game film intimidating for the Washington Wizards as they prepared for Oklahoma City Thunder all-star forward Kevin Durant. The District native arrived in his home town Saturday playing the best basketball of his career, and the capacity Verizon Center crowd, in Durant’s thrall, was waiting for him to make memories.

The Wizards wanted to avoid being the next victim on the Durant barnstorming tour, which included 10 straight wins entering Saturday. Forward Nene best explained Washington’s approach: “First of all, pray. Second, have good luck. And the third, do your best.”

Hard to dispute the success of that strategy. In what has become a bizarre tradition in these parts, Durant once again was on the losing end against the Wizards, who beat the Thunder for the third straight time in Washington, 96-81. The victory over Oklahoma City, owner of the second-best record in the NBA at 38-11, continues the Wizards’ recent run of success against teams with winning records — they also have wins over Miami, Golden State and Phoenix.

For the first time since Durant's rookie season, the Wizards were able to counter the arrival of a superstar with an all-star of their own. In his first game since being named an all-star reserve for the first time in his career, John Wall overcame a horrific first half to score 17 points while handing out 15 assists — one shy of his career high — as the Wizards improved to 23-23 and 11-11 at home.

“It was great. It was a humbling experience for me. I still got my team goals ahead of what my accomplishments are, individually. And when I went out there, I was just trying to play for my team and get a big win,” Wall said about his latest recognition. “I think about it when I get home by myself, but when I step in this locker room, it’s these other 14 guys I got on my team.”

Wall didn’t have a field goal in seven attempts through the first half, missing a point-blank layup at the end of the second quarter that had Coach Randy Wittman shaking his head. “I told him, either change your shoes, change your uniform, or do something. Something is not right,” Wittman said.