Washington Wizards: In Wizards-Hawks Game 6 John Wall Made The Leap

Apr 28, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Washington Wizards guard John Wall (facing camera) celebrates with head coach Scott Brooks after their game against the Atlanta Hawks in game six of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 28, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Washington Wizards guard John Wall (facing camera) celebrates with head coach Scott Brooks after their game against the Atlanta Hawks in game six of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports /

Washington Wizards MVP Candidate John Wall had himself quite a first round series against Atlanta.  His Game 6 performance cemented his leap into the league’s elite.

Lost in a whirlwind 48 hours for the Washington Wizards which saw them close out the Atlanta Hawks, securing their 3rd Eastern Conference Semifinals appearance in four seasons, play and drop game one of their second round series to the Boston Celtics while losing their starting power forward, Markieff Morris to an ankle injury; there was a moment.  A moment where potential was fully realized and good became great; John Wall became an NBA Superstar.

We’ve heard it all about John Wall since he was drafted to the Washington Wizards in 2010.

  • John Wall isn’t a leader;
  • John Wall can’t shoot;
  • John is ok, but Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Isaiah Thomas, and Kyle Lowry are all better (notice how Wall is the constant while the others recycle in and out of the discussion);
  • John Wall can’t close;
  • John Wall has peaked.

For a team that rarely played on the national stage, John Wall was a lightning rod for criticism.

In his 3rd year in the NBA and after sitting out a large portion of that season to date with an injury, John received a scathing critique from Agent David Falk as shared in a column by Mike Wise; “You guys are in dreamland. Because this team [stinks] so bad you guys want John Wall to be someone he will never be.” “You can develop your jump shot all you want, but if you don’t know how to play more than an up-and-down game by the time you’re about 20 as a point guard, the chances of learning are very slim. I don’t see it happening.”

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It didn’t end there.  Stan Van Gundy in an interview with ESPN 980, transcribed by the D.C. Sports Bog shared his opinion of John Wall, “I think maybe they thought it was gonna be John Wall – maybe they still think it is. I think there’s a lot of people in the league – I’d certainly be one that would share this opinion – I don’t think John Wall’s good enough to be the guy that you build around.”

Then there was yours truly, who has routinely questioned whether or not John Wall was capable of turning his vast talent into the consistent production necessary to be great and even went as far as suggesting that the Wizards entertain the notion of trading John Wall after their slow start to the season.  (I can own it!)

This season has been a referendum to these critiques.  John Wall has answered many if not all of the above during the regular season.  John Wall averaged career highs points, assists, steals, FG%, PER, TS%, and FTA per game.  He led the Washington Wizards to 49 wins, their most as a franchise since the 1978-1979 season.  He just needed the icing on the cake and game six versus Atlanta provided just that.

John Wall hasn’t always played his best basketball in the postseason.  His teams have had success but he’s had his share of struggles (particularly in the 2014 NBA playoffs).

Over 18 playoff games between 2014 and 2015, John Wall’s career post-season averages were 16.7 points and 8.9 assists per game on 37.6% shooting from the field and 20.4% from the 3-point line.  While the team had success and John Wall certainly had moments, his first exposure to the postseason and national spotlight at a professional level wasn’t his best and couldn’t be considered average on an individual level.

The first round versus Atlanta Hawks was anything but average.  Prior to Game 6, John Wall was averaging 27 points and 10.8 assists per game on 49.5% shooting from the field and 53.3% from the 3-point line.  In spite of John Wall’s exploits, Washington was struggling to put away a tough but beatable Atlanta Hawks team.  A series that many thought would be won by Washington in no more than five games had become a true fight for survival much earlier in the playoffs than expected.

Then Game 6 happen; then John Wall happened.  If you follow the Washington Wizards you know what the box score said; John Wall had 42 points, 8 assists, and 4 steals and 2 blocks while shooting 64% from the floor.  He was dominant from the start.  The last player to have that type of stat line in a playoff game; Michael Jordan.

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The boxscore however only begins to tell the story.  John Wall dominated from start to finish.  More importantly he imposed his will by not allowing his team to lose, particularly when Atlanta was making a late surge and Dennis Schroder had a breakaway that could have cut a 20+ point Washington lead to just one single point.

John Wall wasn’t having any of that however as he chased down Dennis for the block, a play we’ve seen many times in the DMV but not in that moment.  When John Wall turned around and on the very next offensive possession split a double team before finishing through contact from Paul Millsap to extend the Washington lead to five, the resulting four point swing that had occurred in a matter of 30 seconds was too much for Atlanta to overcome.

John Wall scored the last 13 points of the game and series for Washington, while letting everyone in the crowd and the national audience know about it.  It was must see television in terms of performance and entertainment.

John Wall had a game that few players in this league are capable of; a performance that could only be described as Lebron’esque in his ability to pressure and collapse an entire defense. He willed his team to a victory on a night where he and backcourt mate Bradley Beal combined to score 73 of team’s 115 total points.

On that night and in the postseason John Wall proved that yes, he can lead; yes, he can shoot; yes, he can close; no, he had certainly not peaked, and yes, he is amongst the elite in the game.  That was John’s potential being fully realized; the night he became without question an NBA Superstar.

Next: Washington Wizards Announce Fan Giveaways for Games 3 and 4 of Second Round