The Wizards have lost several games thanks to poor execution in the closing minutes, but Thursday’s loss to Cleveland may have been the most frustrating of them all because it didn’t follow the same script as some of the team’s other blown leads.
The game closed at a decent pace and it didn’t devolve into Wall and Beal trading ISO jumpers over the final six minutes. Six different players attempted shots over the last six minutes and Markieff Morris and Otto Porter combined to take as many shots over that stretch as John Wall and Bradley Beal did. Any way you slice it, the defense lost the game more than the offense did.
That said, the Wizards’ offense in the last minute in particular was rough, and that falls largely on John Wall’s shoulders. He missed two mid-range jumpers in the final minute, where he has struggled all season, and then threw the ball away on the final possession, even though it looked like he could get past Jeff Green for a layup to tie the game:
Watched this again because I enjoy being miserable.— Mike Prada (@MikePradaSBN) April 6, 2018
I get it, maybe lacking confidence in the knee. But it’s a two-point game and you have the step on Jeff Green. Whyyyyyy pic.twitter.com/z5iwUlh97p
Wall was asked after the game why he passed it, and indicated the way the game was being called influenced his decision (HT: SLAM Online):
John Wall believes he couldn't get calls down the stretch, so he was focused on looking for his teammates. Spoke about the difficulty of stopping LeBron and #Wizards playing much better in second half. pic.twitter.com/IHOsoYxI3T— Spencer Davies (@SpinDavies) April 6, 2018
“Because I try to do the same thing as LeBron. But when I turn the corner and get downhill I don’t get those same calls when people put hands on me or contact with me. I already knew the play before that when I drove on LeBron I wasn’t gonna get a call. So why even put myself in that position? Same thing happened with Jeff Green. I knew they wasn’t gonna give me a call, so I tried to find a teammate for a wide-open shot. Just give that guy credit for making a great defensive stop.”
Wall probably has a point here. He attempted six free throws on Thursday, four less than LeBron, and it was evident he was frustrated with the refs on the two possessions prior to the turnover:
When someone makes contact with LeBron, it’s like a bowling ball crashing into sheet metal: It’s hard to ignore the noise or the damage. When someone makes contact with Wall it’s like a bullet grazing off of sheet metal, it happens so quickly you might not even hear it happen or notice the bullet has been completely thrown off its trajectory.
The irony here is LeBron expressed frustration about the exact same thing earlier this season, accusing the referees of trying to turn him into a jump shooter. But at least he can still be effective if the referees take away his ability to get to the free throw line, Wall can’t.
Whether you think Wall is right or wrong about how referees call things in crunch time, the bottom line is it’s having a very clear impact on how the Wizards approach end-of-game situations. The whole point of putting the ball in Wall’s hands late in games is so that he can be a threat as a scorer or a passer. If he’s only going to take ineffective shots that allow the opposing team to stay home on shooters and force turnovers, the Wizards would be better off drawing up some other plays late in games. Putting the game in the hands of the refs might be a losing proposition, but putting the game in the hands of someone who shoots 28.4 percent in the mid-range isn’t much better.