In Tuesday’s loss to the Raptors, John Wall had one of the worst games of his career. To go along with eight percent shooting, Wall had an unsightly seven turnovers. Let’s take a look at his decisions in the pick-and-roll and how he reacted to Toronto’s defense.
In the first quarter, Wall made an uncharacteristic mistake. There’s actually nothing out of the ordinary about the Raptors’ defense; the defender in the weakside corner comes to help on the roll-man (Emeka Okafor). Wall has probably seen this a hundred times this season and he’s done an excellent job finding that open corner shooter. This time, however, he second-guesses himself in mid-air and throws it to the wrong spot-up shooter.
The jump pass to the corner is the proper pass to make here, and Andrea Bargnani isn’t even in position to disrupt Wall’s vision. It’s hard to pinpoint what Wall was thinking because he’s made this exact play numerous times this season.
In the second quarter, Wall commits another turnover that should leave fans confused. "Icing" the pick-and-roll is a common defensive strategy when dealing with ball screens. The on-ball defender will force the ball-handler away from the screen and toward the baseline, where a help defender is waiting. Some examples are shown here.
On this play, the Raptors don’t ice the pick-and-roll. Instead, Wall essentially ices himself. He hurries down the floor and uses an impromptu ball screen to get himself stuck on the baseline. From here, the only pass he can make is to Okafor, who is standing a foot away from him. Wall doesn’t have a line of sight to his spot-up shooters on the perimeter. There’s too much traffic in too small a space and Toronto intercepts the pass.
When Wall's critics talk about his decision-making, they can look to this turnover. Wall was overeager to make a play and hurried himself into a no-win situation.
Wall’s final turnover occurred at a crucial moment in the game. With under a minute remaining, the Wizards needed a bucket and were gunning for a three. The design of the play calls for Martell Webster to use a backscreen to get open for a corner three. However, part of Webster getting open hinges on Wall’s ability to draw the attention of help defenders.
The key moment in the play is when Wall decides against using a ball screen and instead tries to beat Kyle Lowry to the baseline. If Wall can win that matchup, Andrea Bargnani will step up to help, and Webster will be wide open. If he doesn’t beat Lowry, Wall will have iced himself yet again. Unfortunately, Wall can’t turn the corner, and tries to make an impossible pass over the seven-foot Bargnani.
During Wall’s nightmare game, he often was his own worst enemy. Too many of his turnovers came as a result of his own poor choices, as opposed to the Raptors’ forcing him into them. Ultimately, this was Wall’s worst game of the season, and many of these plays were out of character for this season.
Do you think this is a sign of regression? Or did Wall just need to shake off his All-Star break rust?