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The Wizards need John Wall to step up and take over in Game 5

Game 5 might be John Wall's last chance to have a big night for the Wizards. Will he step up?

Rob Carr

This is not an attempt to call anyone out. This is not a jinx or a trick or a ploy. This is merely a statement of fact:

If John Wall doesn't put the Wizards on his back tonight, they won't stand a chance.

This team was built around him to highlight his strengths. The roster was assembled to hide his weaknesses and to give him necessary rest. Untested youth on the roster was strewn aside in favor decades of combined playoff experience between the starters and the bench. The team gave him the full rookie-extension max contract, and for the most part, he's looked like he's earned every damn penny.

But tonight, John Wall needs to look underpaid. He needs to play to his strengths, and he showed us this season just how many he had: he can run and finish on the break, he can hit midrange jumpers, he can hit threes, he can make the crowd ooh-and-aah on highlight reel passes, he can seem trailing players in transition out of the back of his head and he dunked over G-Man to drive New Orleans crazy.

I won't dwell too much on the numbers (you can check out this Fanpost for some of those), but they haven't been great. To be fair, the Wizards faced the top two defensive teams in the league, so it's not wholly unexpected that their offense would suffer a bit. We can expect a player to miss shots here and there, for the law of averages to kick in and regress talent to the mean. All of that is well and good, and the explanation makes sense. If you're a 50-percent shooter and you make your first 10, you should expect to miss your next 10. It makes total sense, but it's irrelevant.

Because ultimately what we expect doesn't matter. No one expected the Wizards to have a better playoff road record than a home record. Hell, no one expected the Wizards would beat the Bulls in the first round, let alone beat them so handily.

No, this series isn't about expectations. It's about need. The Wizards need John Wall to go bananas. They need him to hit that jumper he worked on for two years. They need him to light it up from beyond the arc. They need him to get into the paint and take it to the hole. They need him to draw a million fouls. They need him to to go coast to coast for a thunderous dunk in transition.

They need him to be this guy that I wrote about just before the playoffs:

I've been watching the Wizards day-in and day-out for the past two seasons, and I still get goosebumps every time John Wall goes coast to coast in under 4 seconds for a dunk. He brings the crowd to its feet and the opposing team to its knees.

The Wizards need John Wall.