WASHINGTON - For about thirty seconds on Wednesday night, it seemed like the Wizards season may have been finally coming down to a crashing halt.
John Wall had what seemed to be an easy layup attempt that Nerlens Noel made a bit more difficult than anticipated. Noel challenged the shot and nudged Wall from behind a bit, which caused him to land awkwardly.
Wall curled up on the floor writhing in pain and holding his left foot, for what felt like an eternity. Team trainers and medical staff ushered him up off the floor after Washington defended a full Dallas possession and got the ball back.
No one fouled. There were no stoppages. The action continued, but all eyes were on the All-Star point guard sprawled across the floor on the other end.
“I just tried to fall, and my foot got caught underneath me,” Wall said. All it took was a simple play. A routine fall. And that could’ve been it for Washington. Not only for this game, but for a chunk of their season.
Luckily, Wall finished the game and played decently. He finished with 26 points and 11 assists in a losing effort. But on the other side of the coin, Wall’s potential lingering foot issue comes at a time when the team has other pressing issues to be concerned about.
The Wizards blew a seven point going into the fourth quarter thanks to a 13-0 run by the Mavericks against the Wizards’ bench. But unlike other recent games where Washington has been able to pull itself up by the bootstraps and make a comeback, costly turnovers and awful shots stopped any chance to pull out a late victory.
However, their offense wasn’t the only problem in the final minutes. The big issue: They allowed the Mavericks to score 39 fourth quarter points. In the NBA, it often is not about how you start but how you finish. And for the second game in a row, Washington finished poorly on both ends.
In his pre-game media address, Scott Brooks noted that their defense has been an issue. But he said he hoped the team would get back to playing a full 48 minutes of hard-nosed defensive basketball. Against the Mavericks, that hope was dashed.
“The defensive intensity wasn’t where it needed to be. The third quarter was good. We had a chance to go up, but then we just relaxed,” Brooks said.
Their biggest issue? Guarding the three point line, Brooks said. And in the fourth quarter, where the Wizards truly lost the game, the Mavericks capitalized on that weakness to the tune of seven made threes in the period.
“We’ve got to figure it out,” Brooks said.
And the Wizards have got to do that quickly. There are only 15 games left in the season for Washington. After Wednesday’s loss and the Celtics’ win over the Timberwolves, the team has lost any grip it had on the two seed and fell 1.5 games behind Boston for the spot.
The team is still botching defensive coverages with just over than a month until the postseason begins. If those issues are not solved soon, Wall said, the Wizards could ruin their chances of doing “something special” in the postseason.
And now, along with their defensive woes, their leader and best player may miss some games down the stretch.
“It’s sore,” Wall said of his foot when asked how he was feeling. He returned to the game after halftime despite being deemed “questionable” by the Wizards training staff to return.
Brooks said at the half, Wall went through some quick medical treatment and moved around on his foot in the Wizards’ practice gym. He felt good enough to play, Brooks said, and seemed to be fine going forward.
“I’m sure it’s going to be sore tomorrow, but he was fine. He looked good, he had good energy,” Brooks said. “We wouldn’t have put him out there if he wasn’t.”
Wall said this particular foot sprain did not hurt the same way a similar injury did in his rookie season that kept him out for a few weeks, but he thought it could be something more serious. “It worked out,” he said.
Still, Wall said, the training staff will discuss how they are going to monitor him going forward overnight. He’ll learn more about his status Thursday morning and what he needs to do to recover. Whether that will keep him out of Friday’s game against Chicago, or any games going forward, remains to be seen.
Either way, Brooks said, now is not the time to panic. Bradley Beal agreed. There are issues that need to be worked on in Washington, but panic is something they cannot afford to do right now.
“We’re not going to panic. That’s one thing that is not going to happen,” Beal said. “We’re going to get back to playing our style of defense and doing what we know we’re capable of doing. You’ve got time, but eventually you run out of time.”