He also had another chance to make a big play in the closing seconds but came up short again. Two nights before, Wall dribbled one second too long, connecting on a floater in the lane after time expired in a loss to Indiana. After the Wizards lost consecutive games in which they blew second half double-digit leads, Wall said, “I fell short of a leader to close the game for us.”
“Tough night. Those things happen. I thought he did a fine enough job running the team. He’s got to bounce back,” Coach Randy Wittman said of Wall. “The good thing about this is we’ve got another one [on Sunday in Boston], then another one on Monday. Not that we’re going to sleep very much, anyway. We don’t have to think about this one too long.”
Wall missed 11 of 12 shots in Orlando on Feb. 1 but he had 15 points the next game in Toronto. After going 1-for-8 against the Los Angeles Lakers on March 7, Wall rebounded by scoring 25 points with eight assists the next game against Portland. Hawks guard Kirk Hinrich believes his former teammate has improved from last season and won’t let his struggles from Saturday linger.
“A game like this might have really bothered him when I was here,” Hinrich said. “He’s probably at the point of his career now where he is going to realize there are going to be nights like this where he isn’t playing well.”
The Wizards (11-36) believe that they are a better team since the recent trade to acquire Nene, with the rugged big man giving them a dimension inside that they didn’t possess. They dominated New Jersey and were in control through the first 47 minutes against playoff contenders Indiana and Atlanta, but Wall is still trying to figure out how to adjust his game to fit with a reliable low post presence.
“It’s not trying to learn him. We know,” Wall said of playing with Nene. “Teams try to hold on to him more, try to double team when they know he got it going.”
Nene scored 10 of the Wizards’ first 14 points and finished with 21 points, but didn’t take a shot in the final three minutes against the Hawks. Wittman said the Wizards might’ve been able to close out the games against Indiana and Atlanta if they had forced the ball inside more.
“We’ve got guys who will pass the ball back out,” he said. “Especially when it gets down to crunch time. We’re never going to get to the free throw line, playing out to the perimeter and the three-point line like that. We don’t get anything thrusted to the basket, which for us, needs to be the ball in the post.”
Wall took an ill-advised jumper with 89 seconds left, pulling up from 21 feet early in the shot clock with the Wizards holding a two-point lead. He missed several open jumpers and failed to convert a few layups against the Hawks. He got fouled on a few drives, which allowed him to collect six points from the foul line. Wall made one layup in the first half, giving the Wizards a 10-point lead when Nene found him under the basket. But after later getting fouled and missing a layup, Wall slapped the ground in frustration.
“They gave me my shots. I just missed them,” Wall said. “Holding my jump shot too long and falling short on most of my jump shots. And the ones I didn’t, I faded too much and they was long. You give credit to their defense. Some of my shots was going, some was bad and they just wouldn’t go in. it was kind of frustrating. But my teammates did a great job carrying us.”
When asked what happens to the Wizards late in games that has contributed to their problems, Wall said, “Sometimes we take shortcuts. And sometimes you just got to give credit to the other team’s defense. They’re showing you why they’re a playoff team. It’s tough to score against those teams down the stretch. We’re just getting better and trying to finish out the season as strong as possible so we can know what it takes and how you can be a playoff team.”