On a night when his team needed him most, Washington Wizards’ All-Star point guard John Wall broke out of his recent slump to lead his team to a 102-79 win on the road against the Indiana Pacers.
It’s a game that many of us had been waiting for since the Wizards knocked off the Chicago Bulls in round one. After a 24-point performance in the decisive Game 5 of that series, Wall put together his best effort yet of round two as Washington staved off elimination.
In 34 minutes of action, Wall contributed 27 points, five rebounds and five assists. While his assists were below his average, his point total was 16 points above his average for the series entering the night. His offensive performance and the Wizards easy victory are certainly no coincidence.
Entering the night, the fourth-year guard out of Kentucky was shooting 31 percent from the field. His highest total prior to Game 5 came last Friday night when he scored 15 points as Indiana routed Washington, 85-63. By no means had his performance in the series been spectacular and it made him the target of a lot of criticism, myself included.
Wall was disappearing in a Roy Hibbert-like fashion. His shooting was poor and it appeared to be affecting him mentally. With his team down three in Game 4, Wall passed up an open three with roughly a minute left on the clock. Instead, he waited for Bradley Beal to come around to the top of the arc. Beal eventually missed the off-balance and contested shot.
He was in a catch-22 as he was criticized for not taking that shot, but was criticized for several three pointers he attempted near the end Washington’s Game 2 loss. With plenty of time remaining, Wall fired up a series shots that were unnecessary, and off the mark.
In sports, however, that’s how things go. No matter what you say or do, you simply will never be perfect. There’s always something for someone to gripe about. Following his Game 5 performance, though, you have to look long and hard to really find something the criticize him about.
Wall took a postseason-high 20 shots and made 11 of them (also a postseason-high). He was 3-for-6 from behind the arc and 2-for-2 at the free throw line. To find a game in which he even played remotely as well this postseason, you have to go back to Game 3 against Chicago when dropped 23 points, hit eight free throws and nailed a three-ball.
Defensively, he locked-down Indiana’s point guard, George Hill. Hill managed just three points on 1-of-8 shooting and two turnovers. Like wise, Game 5’s scoring leader, Paul George, was handled well as he managed just 15 points on 5-15 shooting.
His most recent masterpiece is one that should not come as a surprise. He was aggressive and not afraid to shoot. Wall used his biggest attribute, his speed, to get to the rim. While it didn’t translate to many free throw attempts, he was still able to rise up and put the ball through the net.
When the postseason comes around, the cream of the crop will rise. As the team’s leader, superstar and face of the franchise, Wall needed to do just that. While he did so in round one, he was virtually nonexistent in the first four games of round two.
Is John Wall back? That question will be answered later on. For right now, he certainly seems to have found his old self that led the Wizards to this position in the first place. With their backs against the wall, he swooped in saved the day. Soon, though, we will get the answer to that all important question mentioned above.
On Thursday night, the Wizards return to the Verizon Center for Game 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals. Once again, they’ll have to stave off elimination if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 PM EST.
Brian Skinnell is a sports writer born and raised in the Washington, D.C.-metro area. He’s had work published on Yahoo Sports and Rant Sports, and has made several radio show appearances across the country to discuss his works. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+!