March 31, 2018 | Capital One Arena | Washington, D.C.
After 27 games without John Wall since he decided to have surgery on his left knee, the Washington Wizards welcomed back their franchise point guard and he provided the lift the team needed. In their first win over the Charlotte Hornets this season, the Wizards showed their offensive potential and as Steve Clifford admitted before the game, nobody should want to play a healthy Washington team if they continue to gel at the right time. For the fourth time in the last five years, the Wizards will be in the playoffs, which they did not accomplish once in the five years before this current stretch.
(Photo: Ned Dishman via Getty Images)
John Wall Looks As Advertised
In 33 minutes of play and under no minute restrictions, the five-time All-Star put up typical point guard numbers with 15 points and 14 assists, which accounts for a total of 52 points. The 27-year old was just 6-for-17 from the field as he continues to get his legs under him and working into game shape. Much of his inefficiency from the field is also because of the lack of drives to the rim due to Dwight Howard’s large presence. Wall was 3-for-4 in the paint, 1-for-7 in the midrange, and 2-for-6 beyond the arc.
“That Ferrari is pretty good,” Brooks said as a metaphor for Wall. “He’s fast, he’s quick. He got a lot of open shots for a lot of players. That’s what he does. That’s what he does at the highest level in the league. All you have to do is just step up and make shots and roll to the basket, you’re going to get layups. He doesn’t need to change, he just needs to keep getting some game conditioning, get his legs under him. But it’s nice. It’s nice to clinch the playoffs. A couple of months ago without John we didn’t know how we would really perform without him.”
The nice thing about Wall’s game is that even when he is not having his best scoring night, he contributes in other ways with his passing that is some of the best in the NBA. He provided his teammates with easy layups or open looks from the perimeter as the offensive overall flowed nicely. Wall admits he is not yet 100 percent despite no pain in his left knee, so one can just imagine how good this offense can be when everyone is clicking and mostly healthy aside from regular season fatigue.
“Not a lot of guys can do that,” Brooks said about Wall recording a double-double in his first game in over two months. “I’ve been around the league as a player and as a coach for a long time, and a lot of guys can’t do what he just did tonight out there, like he hasn’t missed a beat. He didn’t shoot the ball well but got a lot of good looks for his teammates. It’s based on work, it’s based on the effort, it’s based on being diligent, it’s based on coming in and doing the work, even when we were on the road he was here by himself along with (trainer) Jesse (Phillips) and our coaches. They put him through some good work. In our last 10 days of practice opportunities, he came in and gave us great work that gave him a chance to play 33 minutes and not look winded.”
Fire Three-Point Shooting
Nine of Wall’s 14 assists were on three-pointers. Washington tied a franchise record with 18 three-point makes, which they have now done for the fourth time in team history including three times this season alone. The efficient 46.2 percent (18-for-39) from deep can be directly correlated to Wall getting his teammates cleaner looks at the basket as he draws the attention of defenses at all times. Bradley Beal (6-for-8), Otto Porter (6-for-10), and the Charlotte Hornets (6-for-22) all had the same number of three-pointers, which is bonkers. As with all teams, when shots are falling, you are going to be hard to beat and with Wall back and the Wizards’ competent shooters, hot shooting can be the case more times than not. Contrary to some hot take artists, everybody is continuing to eat with Wall running the show as Washington is now 12-3 when recording 30 or more assists this season.
Markieff Morris Exits Early
After playing under ten minutes in the first quarter, the Wizards’ power forward left the court for the locker room and would not return due to flu-like symptoms. Scott Brooks shared that Morris woke up on Saturday feeling ill and commended the big man for trying to fight through it for his team. Morris finished with three points on 1-for-4 shooting and three rebounds as he was visibly not feeling himself as he jogged up and down the court. Mike Scott was asked to fill in most of the vacant minutes and made the most of them. The “walking bucket” as he is affectionately known as finished with 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting and four rebounds in 23 minutes.
Probably aside from Dwight Howard finishing for 22 points on 9-for-15 shooting, the Wizards did a good job of limiting the Hornets. Kemba Walker finished with just seven points and did not score until late in the third quarter. Charlotte had just 93 points, which allowed Washington to improve to 19-4 when holding their opponents to less than 100 points this season. Moreover, the road team shot a miserable 26.1 percent, 6-for-23, from beyond the arc after they shot 42.8 percent from deep in the previous three games against the Wizards this season. The home team forced 17 turnovers and were able to cash them in for 21 points. Even with these efforts, Brooks was not completely happy with the effort.
“We got beat on a lot of things that we got to clean up,” Brooks evaluated. “[Frank] Kaminsky was going by us every single time on the perimeter and we got to clean that up. We got to get better, we got to get better stopping the basketball. That’s been a problem. We have to get better. At spurts, third quarter and fourth quarter, we were much better. The second quarter, we struggled.”
Kelly Oubre Jr. Slumping
Dating back to late in the Denver game on Friday to early in the fourth quarter against Charlotte more than a week later, the wavy wing was 0-for-21 from beyond the arc. Despite good looks from deep, Oubre simply could not buy one to drop. The 22-year old struggled offensively on Saturday with 2-for-14 shooting from the field and 1-for-9 from three. I asked Brooks what the deal is with what many would agree is Washington’s X-factor and he couldn’t care less about the slump as long as he is playing the right way on the other end of the court, which the coach might not think is the case.
“The thing is as a young player in this league, you can’t get beat on defense every time down the court,” Brooks semi-criticized. “Sometimes that happens when you don’t focus on the defense. I would tell him that he has to keep taking the shots that he’s comfortable taking. It’s not about the shots, it’s about stops and the game rewards guys that get stops.”
Next Game: Washington travels to Chicago on Saturday night for a matchup with the tanking Bulls. Wall will not play as a precaution and Tomas Satoransky will start in his place.