February 22, 2020

Wizards vs Pacers Game 5 Preview: It’s Time For John Wall To Be An All-Star

On Tuesday night in Indianapolis, the Washington Wizards will be fighting for their playoff lives as they’ll take on the Indiana Pacers down 3-1 in the series. The NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals series between these two has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride.

While the dynamic of this series has changed many times, one thing has stayed the same and that is the (lack of) productivity by Wizards’ All-Star point guard John Wall. As myself and fellow DSP writer Dave Nichols have touched on recently, Wall has pulled a Roy Hibbert in this series and disappeared.

After averaging a team-high 19.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and 4.1 assists in the regular season, Wall was able to carry that momentum into the Wizards’ opening-round series with the Chicago Bulls. In five games, the fourth-year guard averaged nearly 19 points, seven assists and four rebounds per game. In the decisive Game 5, it was Wall’s 24-point effort that propelled them to victory.

In their second-round series with Indiana, Wall seems to have, well, hit a wall. His shooting percentage has dropped to 31-percent and he’s averaging just 11.5 points and barely three rebounds. To his credit, he has managed to up his assists to 7.5 per game, but that’s a small consolation as it hasn’t amounted to much success in the grand scheme.

At the free throw line, Wall has seen his percentage go down (from 76-percent against Chicago to 72-percent against Indiana), but has also seen his attempts decrease. In round one, he averaged nine free throw attempts per game. Through four games against the Pacers, Wall has seen the charity stripe an average of just 4.5 times per game.

While you can easily accredit that stat to poor officiating, it’s important to remember that the officiating wasn’t exactly spectacular in round one, either. Rather, I think that stat has more to do with what Wall is doing with the ball when he drives. Instead of rising to finish at the rim, he’s looking to pass the ball out. He’s playing unselfish basketball, but it’s backfiring.

It would be one thing if Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza were knocking down the open jumpers that he’s setting them up for, but they’re not. Collectively, the sharpshooting duo are averaging just 47-percent from the floor and provide an average of five threes per game. Those are solid numbers, don’t get me wrong, but it’s been inconsistent shooting from them overall.

As a shooter, Wall has never really been that guy. He only averaged 43-percent shooting from the floor in the regular season and was usually good for just one made-three a game. All along, his game has been to quickly put the ball on the floor and attack the rim. His shooting struggles in the postseason, particularly in round two, are nothing new.

Wall’s biggest attribute is his speed. No matter who else is on the floor, he’s the fastest. When the ball is in his hands, he’s like lightning in a bottle. In round one, Wall used his speed to his advantage to get to the rim. The Bulls’ defenders had two choices: let him score or foul him. It was his mindset to constantly attack the rim that led the Wizards to victory in the series.

Against Indiana, he’s stopped using that speed. Rather than putting his head down and flying through the paint looking for nothing but the rim, he’s looking around at who he can pass to. Even when he creates an open look at a layup, he’s looking to dish the ball back outside. He’s losing his identity and it’s costing the Wizards this series.

For Washington to have a chance in Game 5, Wall needs to be that lightning-in-a-bottle player he’s capable of being. He needs to go at Hibbert and Ian Mahinmi and get them into foul trouble. What good is a 7-foot big man if he’s sitting on the bench? Both Hibbert and Mahinmi have taken control of the paint and it will be Wall, not Nene or Marcin Gortat, that can take back that control.

It’s almost as if Wall is okay with being the number three, or four, guy in the lineup. He’s had no issues allowing Ariza and Beal to do the work and Nene has certainly been in the forefront of the game plan. However, neither of the three brought the Wizards to this point. Rather, it’s been thanks largely to the effort of Wall that they made the playoffs in the first place.

Of the Wizards’ starting five, Wall has been here the longest by nearly two seasons (Nene was acquired in the middle of the 2011-2012 season). If there’s one player that deserves all the glory and credit, it’s him. There’s no reason why he should be looking to pass the ball. He is the man on this team and it’s time he play like it. The others are there to support him and he’s trying too hard to get them involved.

Before the start of Game 5 on Tuesday night, Wall needs to find himself again. A first-time All-Star this past year, he needs to find that player agin. Rather than focusing on not making mistakes, he needs to relax and just play his game.

Time and time again, the old saying of “speed kills” has been proven true. At 7 PM on Tuesday night in Indianapolis, John Wall will need to use his speed in order to keep the series alive and force Game 6.

About Brian Skinnell

Brian Skinnell is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page covering the Redskins, Nationals and college football. He is a born-and-raised follower of Washington, D.C. sports, “The” Ohio State Buckeyes and auto racing. A graduate of Shepherd University in December of 2014, he has a degree in Recreation and Leisure Studies with a Concentration in Sports Communications. Prior to joining District Sports Page (for his second stint), he spent time with Rant Sports, Yahoo Sports and the Washington Redskins. For his day job, he is an Editor for Team Velocity Marketing. Follow him on Twitter @Brian_Skinnell.

Trackbacks

  1. […] 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. […]

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