John Wall missed seven of 10 shots and failed to score in double figures for the first time in five games — and just the fifth time this season — on Sunday at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
He had just nine points, but unlike that miserable night in Orlando, where he scored a career-low two points and missed 11 of 12 shots; or that troublesome night in Milwaukee when he scored six points and simply was disengaged; Wall had no need to sulk because he discovered another way to influence the outcome, as he handed out a career-high-tying 15 assists. The primary difference?
Wall certainly did a solid job of setting up JaVale McGee and Jan Vesely for lobs and Nick Young and Rashard Lewis for jumpers, but the game actually took a turn when he woke up from an offensive slumber and stopped messing around with rookie and fellow Kentucky alum Brandon Knight. After committing a turnover that set up a three-point play for Greg Monroe on the other end, Wall made a driving scoop layup for his first field goal — with three minuted left in the third quarter. In a five-minute span, Wall scored all of his points and handed out three assists during a 22-2 run.
“I thought I got fouled a couple of plays before, but you’ve got to play through not getting calls,” Wall said of the layup that got him going. “I only took one shot in the first half, not being aggressive like I was the other games. I got that one basket to go in. I found a rhythm and it got my teammates open and my teammates was making shots. It made it tough for them to help on me and we did a great job of picking them apart, finding guys.”
Wall also had as many turnovers as missed field goals for the game, which he credits to a careless first half. Wall understands that trying to run an uptempo offense will lend itself to the occasional mishap or sloppy sequence.
But in the first half against Detroit, Wall was moving so fast, he was out of control, and his inability to protect the basketball had contributed to helping the Pistons stay in the game.
Wall was trying to create fast breaks that weren’t there, getting so far out ahead of his teammates that he had no one to give the ball to. Unfortunately, he often wound up giving it to Detroit. Wall had four turnovers in the first half. The Pistons converted those miscues into four points but could’ve had more if Greg Monroe hadn’t blown a layup.
“The whole first half, I was kind of frustrated, turning the ball over,” Wall said. “I had four turnovers in the first half, and that’s not what you want to do. That’s what you want to average throughout the whole game, the way we play, but to have it at halftime made it tough and my coaches and my teammates did a great job of telling me to keep fighting through and keep playing.”
After Wall threw one errant full-court pass that squirted out of bounds without anyone touching the ball, Coach Randy Wittman gave assistant Sam Cassell an exasperated look and shouted, “Talk to him!” Cassell works closely with Wall and Wittman needed someone to get Wall to calm down.
“You don’t want to pull the reins back on him, but you have to pull them, if that makes any sense,” Wittman said. “He’s just got to concentrate on that speed can’t lead to out of control.”
Wall said he never put his head down after making the miscues, but Wittman couldn’t say the same. “My head went down, the first half especially, just the open court,” Wittman said with a laugh, before praising Wall for not giving in to a rough night or poor shots and poorer pass.
“I told him, today, since I’ve taken over, it’s the best he’s kept his head in a game after having, in his terms, a poor first half,” Wittman said. “Is it a growing up process? Yeah. We’ve talked about the steps we have to make, that’s one of them, that you play through mistakes. the game’s a long game, 48 minutes...It’s just another testament. It’s a long game. Just because you go into halftime thinking you didn’t play worth a...that’s over. You have an opportunity the next 24 to change that. ”
When asked Wall was able to turn it on when it mattered most, Wittman shrugged. “I don’t know, you have to ask him. If he tells you, tell me, so I know.”