John Wall was responsible for 51 of Washington's 107-point outburst last night. 27 of those points came directly off his assists, six came off passes that led to free throws, and 18 were of his own variety. As a team, the Wizards scored at a rate of 122.9 points per 100 possessions per basketball-reference, by far the best of this young season, and a huge step-up from their previous three games where they failed to eclipse 90 points.
There's some obvious caveats lingering on the surface. For one, Miami is one of the few team's that consistently send their big men to bump, or "hedge," on ball ball handlers as they come off pick and rolls. They've implemented one of the more aggressive show and recover schemes in the league under Erik Spoelstra, and they bolster it with a series of sharp rotations to clog up any openings along the help side.
No player is more adept at exposing those openings quicker than John Wall. He's strong enough to absorb contact from the big man, and he's wily enough to catch one of those help defenders sleeping, even if it's for a split second.
Watch him toy with Luol Deng, who's serving as the help defender, on back-to-back possessions.
This is terrifying for a defense. Wall receives the ball on a side pick and roll going toward the middle of the floor, meaning Gortat will be rolling into the lane on the weak-side of the floor -- where there's only one help defender in his vicinity. Oh and that help defender happens to be marking the hottest three-point shooter in the league. Deng doesn't fully commit himself to either player, and Wall wisely throws the ball over-the-top to Gortat for the easy layup.
So what happens on the next trip down the floor? The same action, except this time, Deng does commit himself to Gortat, so Wall counters by throwing his patented skip pass into the corner.
And it wasn't as if the Heat stood back and watched Wall pick them apart. They tried throwing different looks at him, hoping to coax him into turnovers like they had in the season opener, but it wasn't happening tonight. John read the floor as well as he ever had last night, knowing exactly where the ball to go against Miami's rotating defense.
Watch him perfectly orchestrate this high-low between Kris Humphries and Gortat.
This is what has been lacking in their offense since Nene's injury. Guards are oftentimes dribbling around a trap or getting caught picking up their dribble too early, and it's resulted in a heap of turnovers. John may have done so here, but he knows if Humphries slides up and makes a quick enough decision, Bosh will be forced to take a step away from the basket, leading to an open window for the high-low. It's a simple, off-the-cuff action that yielded an easy basket, something this offense hasn't seen enough of recently.
A lot broke right for Washington last night, and while it's just one game, it is a recipe for how they should strive to play. Again, they kept things simple, and stuck to what works best. I could count the number of times they ran a post-up for Marcin Gortat on one hand, which is to say the least, a promising development considering their propensity to exploit match-ups down low. And while they didn't get much out of their starting wings, they had Wall lifting the play of everyone else, and probing the defense like he's capable of doing on a nightly basis.
If you think you've seen this exact set-up before, it's because you have. The Wizards come out of the sideline out of bounds running one of their pet plays, the Hawk set, for Rasual Butler. Wall comes off the pick with plenty of room in front of him, but instead of pulling up like he's so often done this season, he waits, and allows Butler to spring free off the curl for the jumper.
The win against the Heat was so impressive because Washington finally broke out of their offensive slump not with red-hot shooting, but with crisp execution. They didn't shoot themselves in the foot with an excess of turnovers, and they didn't make things harder on themselves than it had to be.They have a chance to improve their offensive rating with a favorable schedule coming up, this was a nice start.