The final day of the Impact Basketball Competitive Training Series saw the Wizards’ “G” team going up against a juggernaut. Many of the teams in Las Vegas were thrown together based on whatever players were available, leaving some players to play more than one game each day to keep the squads balanced.
Kyle Lowry, Jared Dudley, Corey Maggette, Marreese Speights and Coby Karl didn’t have that problem for the most part. They had formed a dominant squad over the two weeks in Las Vegas, using great ball movement, unselfish play, continuity and chemistry built from training together on a regular basis to win their first seven games with relative ease.
The team was more lethal with Austin Daye, who abruptly skipped town on Wednesday for Russia after signing a deal with BC Khimki Moscow. Even without Daye, the team looked as if it would have an easy time closing out the “lockout league” undefeated against the “G” team, which has struggled in Las Vegas, losing five of its first seven games, and wasn’t going to have Rashard Lewis for the finale.
John Wall’s explosive scoring outbursts had attracted most of the attention for the mini-Wizards in Las Vegas. Clipper Darrell Bailey, the loudmouth superfan for the woebegone Los Angeles Clippers, served as the guest commentator for the last day, and got excited when he spotted Wall before tip-off.
He asked, “You going for 40 today, John?”
Wall shrugged. He decided he would use a different approach on Thursday, taking his foot off the accelerator some and picking his spots while letting the triple J’s – Jordan Crawford, JaVale McGee and Lewis replacement Josh Selby – lead an inspired upset.
The scorekeeper for the games had to return home the day before, so there were no official stats on Thursday, but I had Wall down for 25 points – a respectable total, but considerably less than the 40.8 points he averaged in his first five games in Las Vegas. I asked Wall why he didn’t go for 40 in the finale and he replied, “I had to get that win today.”
And he got it, with McGee providing the dunks and defense, Crawford making timely baskets, and Selby scoring from the outside with deep three-pointers and getting inside for scoop shots and dunks. After losing his individual battle with Speights last week, McGee took the challenge personally and let it be known early that he was seeking the upper hand.
Speights attempted a crossover dribble on McGee, but McGee wasn’t having it. He swiped the ball from Speights so quickly that Speights shorts started to slide down, then McGee dribbled the length of the floor for a layup. Speights adjusted his shorts, then called for the ball the next time down and again tried to shake McGee from the same spot. He got the same result, as McGee slapped away the ball and was off to the races, splitting multiple defenders off the dribble and finishing with a dunk that led Bailey to scream, “ Whoo hoo! JaVale McGee looking like a point guard out here.”
McGee was dunking so often that Bailey shouted in the microphone, “Okay, looks like I’m going to have to get Blake” Griffin, the reigning slam dunk champion who defeated McGee on all-star weekend.
The “G” team hung around, despite the best efforts of Dudley and Lowry, but when it came time to close out the game, Wall deferred to Crawford. Crawford made a three-pointer and then converted a three-point play to give his team the lead for good. Wall tossed a lob to Selby for a dunk and helped take his opponent out of the game by getting to the foul line. Dudley lost his cool when he slid in front of a streaking Wall and attempted to take a charge. Wall treated Dudley like a bowling pin, but when Dudley was called for a blocking foul, he shot up and cursed, picking up a rare technical foul in games where the officials were berated on a regular basis. “C’mon ref, we all know who he is,” Dudley shouted, as Wall managed to get a superstar call.
McGee finished the game as he had the day the before, intentionally missing a free throw and sneaking into the lane for a dunk while everyone else stood around.
“They got cooking,” Wall said of Crawford, McGee and Selby. “They just got hot.”
And the “G” team left Las Vegas with a win.