There were two ways Game 4 could have gone last night. The Washington Wizards could have won, John Wall could have been a hero and Washington would have found itself tied in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. The other scenario is much more depressing.
Because it’s the Washington Wizards, the latter took place.
The Wizards, starting in the second quarter, controlled every aspect of the game. They dominated the boards, they hit their shots, they even made free-throws which they have been routinely bricking all NBA Playoffs. They led by 14 in the final quarter. Then, the final seven minutes happened and the Wizards find themselves trailing 3 to 1 to the Indiana Pacers, in a series where they were the better team in three of the four games.
The collapse yesterday has nothing to do with youth, a contrived subplot that people use to defend the Wizards’ late game struggles, but instead a lack of leadership.
The best teams are defined by their most valuable player. It’s when there’s no alpha leader that chaos takes place. For example, LeBron James is the unquestionable leader of the Miami Heat. Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki have the same gravitas for the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks respectively. All of these players have won championships and have led their squads to glory. Thus, when the best player is the leader on a team, that squad is headed in the right direction.
That’s why John Wall was so disappointing yesterday.
Since he was drafted in 2010, John Wall has been the unquestionable leader of the Wizards. His energy and enthusiasm always seemed to rub off on his teammates and the Verizon Center. This season John Wall deserved his All-Star bid, without a question. The Wizards were plagued with injuries and bang-ups to most of their players this season, especially Nene and Bradley Beal, but Wall was always there to be the driving force and get the Wizards into the playoffs.
Yet, Wall, in Game 4, played horrendously. He turned the ball over almost every time he got into the paint, shot at the front of the rim on every jump-shot, but, worst and most disappointingly of all, he never attacked the rim with a purpose and played scared. Perhaps, the most troublesome play was when the Wizards trailed by 3 with just a few minutes left. Off of an inbounds play, Wall found himself wide-open behind the three-point line and didn’t take the shot. Instead, Wall passed it to Beal who proceeded to miss a much more contested attempt.
I want Wall to take that shot. The Wizards are his team and they should live or die by their best player.
Going back to Indiana, Washington’s on life-support but at least they’re still alive. Down 3-1, it should be interesting to see how much fight the Wizards have left. The Wizards still have the talent to win this series, they just have to find a way to endure such a terrible home-stand.
All I know is, if the season’s on the line, and Washington has to make a shot to survive, I want John Wall with the ball in his hands.