Things usually don’t end well when LeBron James steps foot in Capital One Arena. But Washington limited James to just 13 points and flipped the script as they ran the Lakers off the court, 128-110 on Sunday evening.
John Wall led the way for Washington with a season-high 40 points for a shorthanded Wizards team playing without Otto Porter Jr. for the third straight game and the newest member of the Wizards, Trevor Ariza, who had to sit this one out while this weekend’s trade waits to be approved.
Bradley Beal scored 25 points, the eighth straight time he’s eclipsed the 20-point mark and Jeff Green and Sam Dekker added 20 a piece for a Wizards squad that teased us for a night, showing us what this team could look like when it is clicking on all cylinders.
Washington stormed out in this one on a 24-8 run over the first five minutes of the game forcing Luke Walton to burn two early timeouts. The Wizards were on fire as they connected on their first five field goals and 12 of their first 17. But after nine brilliant minutes of basketball, the Wizards were a bit too loosey-goosey to close the quarter as the Lakers used a 13-5 run to cut the Wizards lead to 10, 33-23 after one quarter.
Things really opened up for Washington in the second quarter as they were able to push the pace. The Wizards used to pride themselves on getting out in transition but that hasn’t been the case this season. Tonight, the Wizards looked like their old selves as they relentlessly pushed the ball, especially on live ball Laker turnovers which allowed them to take control of the game midway through the second quarter.
With just seconds remaining in the first half, Wall hit an arcing jumper over Tyson Chandler to give the Wizards a 71-51 lead going into halftime.
BUZZER BEATER #WizLakers | #DCFamily pic.twitter.com/NSEwP50jgt— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) December 17, 2018
Washington’s lead ballooned to 27 points at one point in the second half and the Wizards barely had to break a sweat as the Lakers never came within striking distance. Capital One Arena was filled with many purple and gold uniforms hoping to see a big game from James but they were silenced as Wall that stole the show.
2016-2017 John Wall shows up tonight
John Wall turned in by far his best performance of the season with 40 points, 14 assists, and 6 rebounds, with most his damage coming in the first half. Wall came out like a man on a mission early on as he pushed the ball in transition and fearlessly attacked the rim, very reminiscent of the 2016-2017 version of John Wall who made an All-NBA team.
The biggest difference from Wall tonight came on the defensive end and that set the tone for the rest of the team. Wall was much more energetic both on the perimeter and when LeBron tried backing him down in the post? He didn’t back down from the challenge.
Wall snagged three steals and had two emphatic blocks making everyone wonder, where is this defensive effort on a nightly basis?
Wall redirects Ball attempt out to the G Street entrance of Capital One Arena. #WallWay pic.twitter.com/mca2EaroZv— Hoop District (@HoopDistrictDC) December 17, 2018
Offensively, Wall was equally as impressive too. Tonight was one of those nights where guys had to keep their heads on a swivel because if you were open, John Wall was finding you.
Here, he threw a between the legs pass in transition for Sam Dekker who did the rest:
D I M E#WizLakers | #DCFamily pic.twitter.com/enER10hbOD— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) December 16, 2018
And here, he easily penetrated the paint to find Thomas Bryant for an easy dunk:
John Wall is doing whatever the hell he wants to tonight. #WallWay pic.twitter.com/bMmgITXB3t— Hoop District (@HoopDistrictDC) December 17, 2018
Take a bow, John.
✅ Season-high 40 points— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) December 17, 2018
✅ 14 assists
✅ 6 rebounds
✅ 4 3-pointers
✅ 3 steals
✅ 2 blocks @JohnWall was doing it all in our home win vs. Los Angeles.#WizLakers | #DCFamily pic.twitter.com/XJg8SXUYqT
An outstanding first half sets the tone for the night
On the heels of a trade, shipping Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers out to Phoenix just one day ago, it was unclear how the Wizards would come out to start this game. However, all of those questions would be put to rest early on in arguably the Wizards best half of the season.
Washington stormed out of the gate for a double-digit lead just minutes into the ballgame. The Wizards connected on their first five field goals and 12-of-17 overall and if they would have been able to knock down some of their open three-pointers, the first half could have been even more lopsided.
Washington came out with an energy and sense of urgency that we’ve seldom seen this season. Guys were active defensively evidenced as they logged eight steals in the first half and turned 14 Lakers turnovers into 17 first half points.
The Wizards dropped 71 points and were up 20 at halftime which begs the question, why can’t Washington bring this kind of energy in, heck, 75 percent of their games?
Sam Dekker turns in his best performance in a Wizards uniform
He’s only played in four games for Washington, but tonight, Dekker showed that he has the potential to be a rotation player for this team. Dekker, who saw more minutes due to the absence of Porter, Ariza, and Kelly Oubre Jr., but also got more playing time as Markieff Morris caught an elbow in the first half to the head and missed the remainder of the game.
Dekker scored 20 points on an efficient 10-15 shooting to go along with five rebounds and four assists. Most thought the trade for Dekker was just a cash saving move and that he’d rarely see the floor. This game might have folks thinking a little bit differently.