John Wall put on a defensive performance for the ages against Chris Paul and the Clippers. Having frequently been outplayed by seven time All-Star Chris Paul throughout his career, Wall was hands down the better player as Washington thumped the now 16-6 Los Angeles Clippers, 104-96 at the Verizon Center. Washington improved to 16-6 and benefits from a their first dominating win against a good opponent since December 1st victory over the Miami Heat. Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 29 points on nine of 19 shooting, while Wall chipped in ten points and 11 assists.
Washington led from beginning to end and, apart from a late Clipper rally, the outcome was never really in doubt. Washington jumped out to a large early lead and never took their foot off the gas. Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat both put up impressive statlines, but Wall, and his defense in particular, were key to the Wizards' victory. Chris Paul, who typically dominates Wall and the Wizards, struggled all night thanks to the defensive efforts of Wall. None of the Clippers were ever able to establish much of a rhythm as a result of Paul's inability to get the team into their usual sets. Even though Wall's numbers were unremarkable, he was the hands down player of the game.
Here are a few things we learned.
1. John Wall can be a game changer on the defensive end.
Half the teams in the NBA have an All-Star caliber point guard - hell, Phoenix has three. Washington is no different, but that theirs might be the best of them on the defensive end is a huge strategic advantage come playoff time. With Wall's ability to shut down or at least disrupt opposing team's primary ball handlers, the Wizards' have the advantage of defending opponents' secondary plays instead of their bread and butter more often than not. Paul finished 19 points and six assists in addition to six turnovers and was only effective late in the fourth quarter when the game was already out of reach. Kudos to Wall for not falling into the trap of so many great players and neglecting defense.
2. Nene is one smart defender.
Not to be outdone by Wall, Nene was pretty darn good on the defensive end too. Blake Griffin was held to 14 points and three rebounds, thanks in no small part to Nene's ability to stay in front of him and not foul. The rebounding is actually more impressive than Griffin's poor point total. Nene is, on paper, a below average rebounder, yet his teams are consistently better on the glass when he's on the court. Tonight's game highlighted just how good he is at boxing out and keeping his man out of the paint.
3. Hedo Turkoglu is still in the league.
Unless you're a truly hardxcore hoop head, it's unlikely you were aware that the Turkish Michael Jordan and former Orlando Magic great Hedo Turkoglu is still in the league. Not only is he still playing, he was a key part of the Clipper's bench attack tonight, finishing with six points and three rebounds in 18 minutes. No, that's not going to put LA over the hump as a championship caliber team, but it's good to see one of the most charismatic and clutch players in recent memory still chugging along.
BONUS CELEBRATION SONG: Bradley Beal's babysitter's hit "Grillz" featuring Ali, Gipp, and last but not least ... PAUL WALL!