Everyone, even the most cynical fans, knew what was coming in today's Christmas Day showdown against the lowly New York Knicks. At the very least, the belief was that the Wizards would prevail at the end, and that it would only take a miraculous effort from Carmelo Anthony to keep things even remotely close.
And to no one's surprise, that's exactly what transpired in Washington's 102-91 win. Melo got his, but so did John Wall and Bradley Beal. They hardly broke a sweat in the first half, shooting 61-percent from the field, with a bevy of their points coming from point-blank range. The Wizards should thank the league schedule-makers for this bout on National TV, which is doubly as important as it serves as their get-well game after falling to the Phoenix Suns and Chicago Bulls earlier this week.
The 2014-15 Washington Wizards don't play down to their opponents. They have their troubles against the better teams, which they'll see more of in the coming week, but one thing can be certain at this point: they relish those match-ups in Madison Square Garden, and they will not succumb to the same plight that has haunted them for so many years.
That starts with John Wall. His Christmas gift today: a chance to go at Jose Calderon and Shane Larkin. Wall is 6'4", almost 200 pounds. His counterparts today were a 33 year-old, never fleet of foot point guard, and a sophomore guard who's listed at a generous 5'11".
So what does he do in the first two minutes of the game? Attack. But he does it only after seeing Marcin Gortat screen off the help defender in the lane.
And if he's getting into the lane that easily, you better expect one of his three-point weapons to get open.
But again, this is everything we come to know and love from Wall. What's so great about him now is that he's flashing more tools to his game that we didn't know existed. Last year it was an improved three-point shot, and this year, slowly but surely we are seeing him play with his back to the basket against those diminutive point guards. Watch him back down poor Shane Larkin 20-feet from the basket, and then spin away from the double-team and right to the cup.
In total, Wall would be responsible for 53 of his team's 102 points. He had a handful of hockey assists as he continually found the open man when he was doubled to go along with his usually forays to the rim that broke down the defense and got his teammates easier looks at the hoop. This was just the latest example in what has been a tremendous season from the franchise point guard. He could've just as easily dominated this game without scoring, and that's what has made him a worthy MVP candidate.
This is all without mentioning Bradley Beal, who had another stellar performance at MSG, or Kris Humphries, who broke out of his shooting slump to go 7-9 from the field. Washington found leaks all over the Knicks defense, and were able to get out in transition at will.
But everything takes a backseat to Wall today. He was a man among boys, and further strengthened his standing as the best guard in the Eastern Conference.