John Wall, Wizards Deny Raptors Comeback

10:14 AM, Feb 7, 2012   |    comments
John Wall's effective drives to the hoop were the main reason the Wizards prevailed Monday night. Credit: Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE
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WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- The normally offensively challenged Washington Wizards shot the basketball magnificently (48.8 percent) on their way to a 111-108 overtime victory against the Toronto Raptors Monday night at the Verizon Center.

It's now becoming a custom for the Wizards players -- and for me -- to focus on all the good things that happened in Washington's fifth win in 25 tries.

While the victory should be cherished like a 6-year-old reveres the ice cream man, it must be told that the Wizards were on the verge of a catastrophic collapse behind the craftsmanship of Linus Kleiza and Jerryd Bayless.

Both players were the sole reason Toronto was able to rally from 18 points down late in the third quarter to force overtime. They each were soaking wet from outside and made the right decisions on when to attack the Wizards in the paint (30 points for both).

Resiliently, Washington hung tough throughout a late fourth quarter battle, mostly without JaVale McGee. John Wall's in-control attacking style overpowered Toronto when it was all said and done.  

Notable Quotables 

John Wall on his jump shot: "If I miss one or two shots, last year I'd get down on myself. I'm working on it so much. Just got to keep shooting."

Randy Wittman on John Wall: "The rest of the team really came together behind [Wall]."

Trevor Booker on his play: "I just got into the middle and John would toss me the ball. I was just trying to make a play."

Nick Young on the win: "It was embarrassing [last time]. It was redemption. We all played consistently."

Randy Wittman on progress: "We are taking steps and we are going to correct our mistakes. That is the growing process I am going to be patient with. We got the win and that's what we needed mentally and physically." 

Jordan Crawford on the almost collapse: "I mean we're thinking about it, but you gotta' keep playing."

John Wall on whether he's more relived or excited about the win: "Excited. It's great to win at home."

Why the Wizards won

1) John Wall - 31 points, seven assists, five rebounds, 10-of-19 shooting, 11-of-14 from the line

Of the Wizards five victories, this is the first where a majority of the credit needs to be tossed upon Washington's point guard. He opened with a bang (11 first quarter points, while denying Jose Calderon the ball) he drew a charge and dished out three assists in the second; he scored 11 more points in the third and somehow, someway hit two running layups with less than a minute remaining in regulation, ensuring overtime would occur.

Wall just didn't disappear Monday night when he could've and where he has several times in the past. He took advantage of the referees calling things tight and willed his way to the free throw line. Wall was in command during a close late game, and he looked like he was having fun doing it.

"I talked with coach Wittman today about things and just playing basketball. Just being aggressive on the offensive and defensive end," Wall told me about being himself on the court.

Randy Wittman called Wall's performance "as good of a game as I've had with him," praising the 21-year-old for not just his offensive effort but his leadership on defense. On one sequence in overtime, Wall jumped out of the gym twice, blocking both of Amir Johnson's would-be points right next to the rim. The Wizards held Toronto without a field goal in the extra session and Wall's defense fired up his teammates.

2) Nick Young - 29 points, five rebounds, 9-for-11 from the line, 2-for-3 from downtown.

To me, it's become increasingly clear that Nick Young is a more valuable basketball player than JaVale McGee. Some will make the argument 'Well, someone has to score points for the Wizards,' but in a league full of old shooting guards, re-signing Nick Young is starting to seem like a possible reality.

According to John Hollinger's player efficiency ratings, Young ranks ahead of guys like O.J. Mayo, Marcus Thornton, Rudy Fernandez and Brandon Rush -- the type of guys Washington would realistically try and replace Young with. Upgrading at the shooting guard position is more tricky than it seems. Right now, Young's scoring has been the most consistent and valuable asset to the Wizards improved play.

3) Trevor Booker - 19 points, four rebounds, three blocks on 7-for-10 shooting and 5-for-6 from the line.

Two Washington Wizards players should be untouchable in a trade: John Wall and Trevor Booker. The more the Wizards play against the rest of the NBA, the more it's becoming increasingly clear that Booker isn't a dime-a-dozen kind of guy in the NBA. The starting power forward's work ethic is unrivaled, creating extra possessions on offense for Washington and tiring down opposing big men.

Booker was instrumental in overtime, on both ends. John Wall used high screen and rolls effectively with Booker, who put himself on the free throw line when it mattered, up two with 10 seconds left. Defensively he frustrated Kleiza into a gigantic turnover, displaying he can stifle quicker players on perimeter when need be.

Additional Notes

*Reserve guard Mo Evans saw his first extensive action of the year and defensively it was a disaster. His lack of speed kept Toronto in the game during the second quarter. Evans was primarily guarding Kleiza during his 16 point scoring tantrum before halftime.

*Chris Singleton's regression is bothersome, and possibly worth an entire article itself. The rookie has gone from manning up an elite point guard in Deron Williams during his first ever game, to now struggling to make an impact. The forward still logged 25 minutes but he was utterly non-existent most of the game.

*As much as I make fun of backup center Kevin Seraphin, he hasn't been hurting the Wizards much as of late. Monday he produced another eight rebounds in 24 minutes. His presence in favor of Andray Blatche is giving additional shots to Young, Wall and Jordan Crawford.

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