John Wall has been criticized throughout the NBA Playoffs, rightfully so, as he was not playing up to par with his breakout regular season. Wall averaged just 11.5 points and shot around 35% through the first four games of the second round series against the Indiana Pacers
It seemed as if his poor play was destined to continue early in Game 5 against Indiana. Wall was aggressive and attacked the rim, but could not hang on to the ball or finish. After several turnovers early in the first quarter, Wall turned to the jump shot he has worked on over the past two years. We saw him shooting off the high pick-and-roll, off of pump-fakes, catch-and-shoot situations and even a nice floater (something he needs to add to his game). Wall finished the game with a playoff career-high 27 points on an efficient 11-20 shooting from the field, including 3-6 from behind the three-point line. It was the best game of Wall’s short playoff career.
I told him something he probably never wanted me to say: ‘I’m frustrated,” said Wall. ”I don’t know how to get out of this slump. I don’t know what to do.’ And he was like, ‘I never want to hear you say that again because I know how confident you are in yourself and how competitive you are. At shootaround he just told me, ‘I want you to be aggressive. If you have 20 turnovers I don’t care. I want you to play the way John Wall has helped us throughout this season,’” Wall said.
He didn’t want to talk to anybody. He didn’t want to interact with anybody. He didn’t rap before the game. He didn’t laugh before the game,” said the Polish big man.
Gortat knew Wall wanted to be left alone, so he kept his pep talk brief. “There’s just one thing I’m going to tell. I’m with you. It doesn’t matter which way it would go, I’m supporting you,” Gortat told Wall.
Thanks to the team’s encouragement, Wall set his frustrations aside, owned the pressure of the situation and delivered a great performance in an elimination game. He is the leader of this Wizards team and his teammates wouldn’t have it any other way.
“End of the day, I’m with him,” said Gortat. “End of the day, I’m going to jump in the fire behind this guy. You know, he plays good or bad, I’m going to have his back, and that’s what I told him before the game, you know?”
Wall will look to repeat his performance at home in Game 6 on Thursday night.