The Wizards were very close to pulling a very Wizard letdown. I had the headline all ready after the Bucks took a 78-75 lead on a Monta Ellis driving bank: WIZARDS BLOW BIG LEAD BUT POST MORAL VICTORY DUE TO GREAT EFFORT FROM JOHN WALL. At this point, we’re all hoping for Wall to be great and flash the greatness we think he possesses. If it leads to a win, that’s a cherry on top. But tonight would have and could have been painful. A 20 point lead against a playoff team with the league’s best defender and two microwave scorers was impressive, but staving them off down the stretch was even more so. The Wizards showed some heart tonight and even prevailed through a Wall-Wittman screaming match and a few dumb turnovers. Tonight felt a little bigger than it actually was.
Martell Webster saw “glimpses of greatness” in John Wall tonight and it’s hard to disagree. Wall strung together two 20 points games for the first time since last March and was the most confident I have seen him all season. In almost every recap I’ve done this year I’ve mentioned Bradley Beal’s confidence level as a barometer for his play and success, and now it looks like mentioning John Wall’s is just as important. I can’t say I would expect a third year player to be unsure of his abilities, but the last two day version of John Wall is not the same guy we saw over the preceding three weeks.
Make no mistake, tonight was all about John Wall. He got where ever he wanted on the court at any time and blew by Monta Ellis over and over and over again. I posited before the game that without Bradley Beal, the Wizards would have trouble spacing the floor, allowing for Larry Sanders to patrol a clogged key and wreak havoc on an Wizard who dared to enter. Nene and Okafor felt the brunt of Sanders’ force (a combined 9 for 25), but John Wall whisked by everyone with ease, converting a number of tough layups and one-man fast breaks. With AJ Price unavailable, Wall needed to play 43 minutes and showed no signs of fatigue, something I’ve wondered about with him since he has been back. I’ve been hard on Wall this year but that doesn’t mean I’m not realistic. When Wall is good I will be the first one to admit it. He was great tonight. It was a pleasure to watch him lead the Wizards to victory.
John wasn’t alone, however. Trevor Booker posted season-highs in points (14) and rebounds (13); Nene 13 points, 13 rebounds (huge for him) and 6 big assists to go along with a +17; Garrett Temple made six of his seven shots in a +19; Martell Webster drilled four of seven threes and scored 20 points, 17 of which came in the first; and Jan Vesely didn’t play. Oh well.
Some notes from the game:
- The Bucks’ starting front court played extremely well, limiting Emeka Okafor and Nene to a combined 36% shooting while going for 38 points and 23 boards. Ersan Ilyasova started heating up in the third and played a large part in the 27-6 run that gave the Bucks a brief lead.
- Brandon Jennings was, well, mostly invisible. He threw a few WOW passes but mostly loafed around having no luck beating Wall around picks, which is odd given Wall’s overall defensive effort so far this season. Wall has now obliterated Jennings in their two meetings this season; Jennings is shooting 5-25 in those two contests. Both of these players want max contracts.
- Kevin Seraphin came into the game, committed two defensive fouls and was then called for an obvious charge on a back down of Gustavo Ayon. He played 10 non-impactful minutes. It appears we’re going to know if we’ve got Good Seraphin or Bad Seraphin pretty early on. It’s rare that he is decent on the court nowadays. It seems he’s either all good or all bad, skewing towards all bad.
- Larry Sanders’ ejection from tonight’s game was one of the best I’ve ever seen. After three and a half quarters of a heated Monta Ellis staring down referees after claerly correct calls, Sanders decided to get in on the act on a clear charge drawn by John Wall. Sanders gave every referee a sarcastic thumbs up (gif courtesy of @wiz_spurtin) before walking off the court and chucking up some deuces, making Chris Brown proud. His Go-Go Gadget arms made the thumbs-up look particularly comical.