When the Wizards and Clippers met in December, John Wall put together one of the finest performances of his career, as he forced Chris Paul into an unusually subpar game, and further bolstered his case to be a starter in this year's All Star Game. It was a statement game for Wall, but as we were reminded tonight, outplaying someone once does not equate to a passing of the torch.
Tonight, John Wall dazzled and had moments of sheer brilliance, like when he got Matt Barnes to look both ways before crossing the street here:
But even in a 19 point, 10 assist performance, he was still decisively outplayed by Chris Paul, who finished with 30 points and 15 assists. As good as Wall was, Paul still had the clear edge in every facet tonight, and it reflected in how each player's team performed. Paul and the Clippers took charge of the game early, as the Clippers raced out to an early 35-21 lead, and ensured there would be no need for late-game heroics by putting the game away midway through the fourth quarter.
So what did we learn tonight? Chris Paul is still better than John Wall, which if you're being honest, with yourself, you already knew heading into tonight. But at the same time, we learned that Wall is getting better and better at being competitive with the league's best. Here's what else we saw tonight;
Assertive Beal shows up for the first half
In all the hubbub over Wall outplaying Chris Paul in the first meeting of the season, Bradley Beal's 29 point outburst when under the radar. Tonight, he reclaimed that form, for the first half at least. The Wizards staggered his minutes so he could play with the second unit a bit more tonight, which was a smart move, because it let Beal play a more assertive role with the reserve, and allow him to attack the Clippers' interior without having to worry about DeAndre Jordan. Beal responded with 16 first half points that help the Wizards climb back from a clunky first quarter performance where they shot 6-24.
Unfortunately, the Beal that we're more accustomted to, the one that settles for the pullup midrange shots off the dribble, came back with a force in the second half and only added two more points to his total.
Seraphin's struggles continue
There's been a lot of talk recently about Drew Gooden's emergence as of late (tonight he had X points and X rebounds in XX minutes). Like last season, Gooden's rise has come at Kevin Seraphin's expense. This month, has Seraphin played 10 minutes or less in all but three games, including his 15 minutes in tonight's game.
While Gooden's play has certainly played a part in Seraphin's demotion, Seraphin himself isn't helping his cause. Offensively, he's still producing, but his problematic defense has gotten even worse as of late. He's averaging a foul every 4.2 minutes this March. Even at only 11.6 minutes per game this month (his lowest month minutes per game average this season), Seraphin is essentially giving the opposing team a chance at six free points when he's on the floor. Even when he's at his best offensively, it's hard for any coach to justify that kind of a trade-off. Unless Seraphin can figure out how to turn things around, he's going to find himself on the same spot on the bench he was at in the playoffs last season.