John Wall entered the 2015-16 season with the lofty expectation of being the league’s MVP or at least being in the conversation. The Warriors 24-0 start nixed that idea as everyone else was a distant second to the reigning MVP and NBA champ Steph Curry. To add insult to injury, the Steph Curry glow was blinding and all encompassing; no other point guard mattered. But there he was one Wednesday night, John Wall trying to hang with Steph Curry. He dropped 41 points on Steph, who coincidentally dropped 51 points on John Wall without breaking a sweat. So it was a near tie of the two point guard’s, one drafted in 2009 and the other drafted in 2010.
You know what you are going to get out of Steph Curry. But Wall’s offense made everyone take a deep gulp. John Wall. Did. What?
Wall’s speed is the ultimate equalizer. He gets to the rim faster than just about anyone but when his lay-up was blocked by Draymond Green it caused him to change course early in the first quarter. He drilled a three. By the time he made his second pull up jumper the Wizards were already trailing by ten and the partisan house was overcome with giddiness every time Steph Curry touched the ball, much less made one of his patented threes. As for Wall, he was a distant second in his own building. Curry had a quick 25 in the first quarter.
The Warriors had no answer for Wall’s speed, outside of the occasional block. He drove through them for consecutive layups and with 29 seconds left in the half, after a Curry three gave him 34 points, Wall answered back with another finger roll lay in and his 19th point which trimmed the lead to 13. Two free throws and he had 20 points in the half. Not as much as Curry but Wall isn’t Curry, not on offense. Wall has his great nights and his I suck nights and nothing in the middle.
An average third quarter, half of which was on the bench because of Wall foul trouble meant entering the 4th quarter Wall had 27 points. Then he went offense crazy.
Speeding past the Warriors subs for another layup. 29 points. Pass to Sessions for his 9th assist. Wizards down by six. Another drive to the cup as Wall made the Warriors pay for his explosion. 31 points. Pull-up jumper. 33 points. More layup drills. 36 points. The shot of the night, a reverse lay-up off of a Otto Porter feed, a work of art. 38 points. A three pointer with fifty seconds left, 41 points.
41 points for the guard everyone says cannot shot.
By the time Wall watched his last three swish through the hoop, a half a minute was left in the game and the Wizards were trailing by 11 points, having given up 132 points. The Wizards underachievement continued despite the Wall output. Scoring 121 points and not coming close to winning is the hallmark of a bad team.
So did John Wall’s extraordinary offensive output even matter, other than ESPN highlights?
His points were useless once Curry, with less than three minutes left, drove the lane off of a Draymond Green feed for his 49th point. He would finish with 51.
Wall shot 68%, a season high. His 41 points was a three year high and the second highest of his career. He matched Curry shot for shot but he wasn’t alone in his inability to take away Curry’s space. It was one of the most entertaining games of the season in which John Wall proved his critics wrong as he showed that at least for one night in February he could produce offense.
But no one remembers it even happened.
It was a game frozen in time. Wall had 18 points the next game. Then 23 points. A week later, he shot 26% in a loss at Milwaukee. The old John Wall was back. The ghost of John Wall rarely appeared, the one who shot the ball perfectly that Wednesday night in D.C., who scored the ball the way Steph Curry always scores the ball.That John Wall was a mirage.
The vultures are circling because the Wizards are not in the playoffs. Rumors of a John Wall-Randy Wittman firestorm is feeding social media circles and Wall, for the first time in his career, has to explain himself. Who is John Wall?
This is who he is. One time this season he was an extraordinary scorer. But he had a pretty bad year in almost every other metric. As point guards go, he was good enough to be an All-Star but nothing about his leadership resulted in anything. So at the end of the day, it may not matter that he matched Steph Curry. He’s not in the playoffs. He failed.
photo via llananba