We've witnessed some incredible performances out of John Wall in the past. We've seen him dominate games without scoring, fill the stat sheet like few point guards can, and lock down defensively. We've seen him come within a steal away from a triple-double in his first home game as a Wizard, seen him dish out 17 assists on two separate occasions in the span of a week back in December, and hit critical shots when the offense could barely stay afloat late in games.
But we've never seen him quite like this. This is the first time he's ever hoisted 30 shots in a single game, and only a nitpicker would be foolish enough to criticize him for it.
When the Wizards were down to their final possession in regulation, coming out of a timeout, it was Wall receiving a high ball screen from Marcin Gortat, getting to his patented right elbow, and nailing a picturesque jumper over the out-stretched arms of Bismack Biyombo to send it to overtime.
When it looked like the offense was toiling away in the first overtime, having gone scoreless for the first two minutes, it was Wall spotting up from beyond the arc, catching and shooting, and holding his follow through like he's been there before.
And to top the night off, it was, you guessed it, Wall, casually spotting up in the corner in what looked like a play he would sit out on. But a slip-up defensively by Kemba Walker forced Mo Williams to run out toward Bradley Beal who had an open look himself, leaving John open to can the corner three.
Back to back 30-point games, only this time he made sure of securing the win. He'll always be known as a passer, but nights like tonight confirms everyone's suspicions of how he'd fair if he consistently looked for his own shot.
Two things we learned:
Second unit finally has an identity, but will it last?
A lot still needs to be sorted out before Randy Wittman settles on his playoff rotation. Will Will Bynum stick? Does Beal continue to get staggered in with the second unit? And what do we make of Kris Humphries eventual return to the lineup?
Above all of that is committing to a style of play. This is where I'd normally chide the team for not settling on one earlier, but they endured similar changes last year which yielded fairly successful results, and tonight may have been a step in the right direction. Ramon Sessions pushed off every rebound looking to score at the hoop, making way for his wings (Webster and Beal) to fill their lanes along the sidelines, and Gooden to serve as the trailer-three man.
But once Charlotte got back in transition, they didn't resort to dumping it down low to Kevin Seraphin. In fact, in that six-minute stretch to start the second quarter, Seraphin attempted zero (!!) post ups and attempted just one shot (a layup). Instead, they ran pick and rolls, swung the ball hoping to attack hard closeouts, and got to the line. It's possible they caught the Hornets defense on a bad night, but it's not unreasonable to expect this kind of style moving forward.
Here's why the offense grinds out so many possessions
It's true, there isn't much of a difference in today's NBA between the shooting guard and small forward, but that's especially the case in Washington where they constantly run the same action for both positions. One staple of their offense is the pindown screen, which comes after the four will cut through the middle of the floor (in this case, Gooden), clearing out the weak side of the floor for the center and wing to run a two-man game.
Forget how hopeless Butler looks on the play. Wall walks up the court with no sense of urgency, waits for Gooden to make his cut to the corner, which initiates the pindown screen for Butler. Boom, 15 seconds left on the clock.
If the defender doesn't get over the screen, Butler can catch-and-shoot with ease. If he overplays, Butler can cut backdoor provided that the big man guarding Seraphin doesn't hang back into the lane. But what transpires above is customary throughout every game. The defender will lock and trail and take away Butler's first look, and from there, all he can do is run a dribble handoff going towards the sideline. Once that's shut off, Wall has no choice but to try to bail everyone out. It's an exercise in futility, and completely emblematic of this team's plight.