WASHINGTON -- Is it happening? Has John Wall finally evolved from "If he had a jumper, he'd be unstoppable" to "he is actually unstoppable?" For one night at least, the answer was yes.
The Wizards' point guard put together the best offensive performance of his short career, pouring in 29 points on 15 shots to carry the Wizards to a 96-87 victory over the New Orleans Hornets.
Wall's first made layup? It came late in the third quarter. Before that point, he hit four two-point jumpers, three three-pointers and one floater in the lane over the outstretched arm of Robin Lopez. It was stunning, really.
Watching the end of the second and the duration of the third quarters was almost an out of body experience. I don't think I have to tell anyone here that Wall isn't normally a good shooter, but suddenly, Wall couldn't miss anything. Corner three? Swish. Three at the end of the shot clock? Nothing but net. Floater off a circle cut over a seven-footer? Good. Jumper in a one-on-one isolation against the Hornets' small forward? Cash. Sixteen-foot pullup going left. Bang. Wildish 16-foot jumper on the fast break drifting left against Vasquez? Splash. Twenty-footer falling away to his right with a man in his face? Wet.
I was often wondering if Wall switched bodies with someone else. Was that another point guard suiting up for our favorite team? I double-checked and can confirm that pigs were not flying in the sky. I cannot confirm if Wall made a deal with the devil to give him a jump shot in exchange for some unspeakable act.
There will be plenty of time to try to explain why Wall suddenly can hit jumpers or if he can keep this up in the future. I'm sure there's a difference in his form, and there's clearly a difference with his confidence. For now, let's enjoy the breakout night and hope that Wall can continue to score consistently from the perimeter, even if he never is this hot again.
- Given how much Nene is struggling to finish around the rim, the Wizards should use him more in the high post with dribble handoffs. He's happy to contribute in many ways, I'm sure, but he seemingly is always used in the low post, where his lack of length and explosion is magnified. Some work in the high post could free Wall even more and take some of the burden off Nene from having to score against the trees.
- It seems like more teams are starting to play Wall tighter on pick and rolls rather than dropping off five feet. The Hornets mixed coverages, but they often would have their point guard lock and trail while their big stepped off to cut off the lane. Is it possible that teams are starting to respect Wall's jumper a bit more, or are they just trying to force more turnovers? If it's the former, that's an encouraging sign that this game will only help more.
- The breakdowns on pick and roll in the first half were largely because of the third, fourth and fifth defenders, not the primary two involved in the play. Not enough pinching in from the wings in the first half. There were also a couple times where Wall took a poor angle, opening Vasquez up to make a play. On one play, he tried locking and trailing on a dribble hand-off, a bad play because it causes you to run right into the screener. Since it was a dribble handoff in the flow of the offense, the help defense wasn't set and Davis got a dunk. Sam Cassell immediately jumped off the bench to tell Wall about it.
- Meanwhile, once Davis picked up his fourth foul, the Wizards elected to switch every screen involving Anderson so he wouldn't get open looks for three. This often put a big man on Vasquez or Gordon, but that was a price the Wizards were willing to accept. Wall in particular did a nice job executing all those switches.
- We once again can't forget about Webster's contributions. Hit his threes, ran the floor, hustled and, save for a couple breakdowns early, played good defense. He's a delight. Guess those little people helped.
- I understand the concerns about injury and attitude, but there aren't a lot of players in this league that can score in as many ways as Eric Gordon. Dealing him would definitely be a step back for this franchise. When he's healthy, he can fill it up from so many places. Dude is strong enough to finish around the rim, smooth enough to pull up from mid-range and good enough to rain it from deep. He's also crafty enough to throw the pocket pass on pick and roll. Problem is, he wore down agains in the second half, which has happened a lot this year. A healthy summer of conditioning should fix that.