John Wall is carrying the Wizards to the top of the Eastern Conference
Wall scored the Wizards’ last 10 points in double-overtime to beat the Celtics, and his superb two-way play has been key to Washington’s 14-6 start.
The Washington Wizards looked dead in the water in the second overtime against the Boston Celtics on Monday night. Trailing by seven points with 2:40 left, the Wizards were on the verge of losing to the Celtics for the second time in two days. All this despite taking a 23-point lead in the third quarter and looking like they’d run away with the game.
Then, John Wall happened.
Wall single-handedly won the game, scoring the final 10 points as Washington finished the game on a 10-2 run to avoid another painful defeat. The Wizards star won the game off the court as well, delivering an emotional post-game interview where he dedicated the victory to a six-year-old cancer victim he befriended earlier in the year.
The go-ahead bucket in the second overtime featured Wall at his best, using his speed in the open court to get to the bucket for an and-1:
Wall scored 26 points on the night and he also made a ton of plays with the pass. The point guard had 17 assists, none bigger than his slick find of Paul Pierce in the first overtime (via @Truth_About_It):
Wall hitting open three-point shooters is second nature to him at this point, as he has been the best in the league in doing it the past few years. The point guard had 247 assists on three-point baskets last season, which was 51 more than the next closest player, according to Rick Maese of The Washington Post. About a quarter of the way through this season, Wall has assisted on 57 three-pointers, per SportVU player tracking data. That puts him on pace for about 230 by the end of the year.
But for some reason, Wall doesn’t always get the credit he deserves. Sam Smith of Bulls.com dropped this gem when talking about the NBA’s best backcourts in the preseason:
[Bradley Beal is] one of the truly elite shooters, but Wall still really doesn’t have an NBA game. Yes, he is very fast and can get to the basket, but his shot is balky and he still has trouble finding shooters in good position or knowing when to shoot or pass. They’d move up if Wall gains a better understanding of playing point guard.
Sure, Wall’s shot is inconsistent: he’s shooting just 43 percent overall and 31 percent from three this season. However, the assertions about needing to gain a “better understanding of playing point guard” were nonsense then and even silier now. Wall’s 10.4 assists per game have him tied with Ty Lawson for second in the league, behind only Rajon Rondo.
Breaking it down even further using SportVU, we can see just how effective Wall is at getting his teammates involved. The 24-year-old is first in passes leading to free throw opportunities, second in passes that lead to assists (i.e. hockey assists), second in points created by assists per game, and third in assist chances per game.
An argument could be made that Wall turns the ball over too much, and he’s currently coughing it up over four times per game after committing nine turnovers on Monday. But part of this is a function of him having the ball so much and always trying to make things happen. While it would be nice if he cut down on some of the turnovers, it’s tough to complain too much when he’s making so many other great plays.
Not only has Wall been excellent offensively, but he has also been great on the other end of the floor. He’s second in the league in steals at 2.2 per game and the Wizards are much better defensively when he’s on the court. Washington is giving up 95.3 points per 100 possessions with its star point guard on the floor, compared to a whopping 111.0 points per 100 possessions with him on the bench, per NBA.com.
Thanks in large part to Wall, the Wizards are 14-6 and tied for second in the Eastern Conference despite Bradley Beal missing the first nine games of the year and Nene struggling with his customary foot problems. The Wall-Beal duo is arguably the best backcourt in the Eastern Conference, and they’re primed to lead Washington on a deep postseason run. If Wall keeps up this type of play — and there’s little reason to expect otherwise — he may find himself in MVP conversations.