Back in his home state, with his mother, Frances Pulley, sitting a few rows behind the Wizards’ bench, John Wall had plenty of incentive to put on a show against the Charlotte Bobcats at Time Warner Cable Arena.
Wall appeared to be headed toward a special night when he had an assist, a steal and a layup to help the Wizards score the first eight points. He wouldn’t get another steal or score another point for the rest for the game, but there probably aren’t many players who would be more excited to match his career low in points – in what was easily the best two-point game of Wall’s career.
That’s because he also finished with 12 assists, four rebounds and a blocked shot, and directed the Wizards to their most lopsided victoryof the season, 113-85, against the lowly Bobcats.
“When you’re a good player and you try to make an impact, you don’t have to score,” said Wall, whose previous two two-point efforts all came in losses. “Some nights, it’s like that. I think [on Monday night] I really grew and matured from not forcing it, even though my team was up, I could’ve tried to force it by getting more shots. It was the smart thing to do, to find my teammates.”
Wall had five assists – to four players – in the first 10 minutes of the game, including an alley-oop lob that Jan Vesely flushed down over Bobcats center Bismack Biyombo. His shot wasn’t falling, which usually leads Wall to force the action with borderline reckless drives, which result in him crashing to the floor to go to the foul line or complaining about a non-call.
But Wall missed five shots and stopped, content with setting up his teammates.
“The thing that really impressed me, and it might not look impressive, was I thought John had as big an impact on the game with two points than he has really had in a while,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “He started it for us by getting pressure on the ball. He was active defensively. He was in help defense, he [got] deflections. He spread the ball out early where guys got shots in rhythm. That was good.”
Wall’s willingness to share became contagious for the Wizards, who matched their season-high with 28 assists. The Wizards had seven different guys score in double figures, but they also had five different players with at least three assists, including Kevin Seraphin, who set a new career high.
It helped that the Wizards were playing against a lowsy team that has clearly packed it in in anticipation of the summer — Charlotte (7-48) has lost 12 in a row and played defense that would be offensive for an all-star charity game. But the Wizards have just 13 wins and can’t really concern themselves with what is, or isn’t standing in the way.
Wall found Seraphin cutting to the basket in the third period, but instead of going up on two defenders, Seraphin dropped a pass to James Singleton cutting backdoor for a nifty reverse layup. Vesely later caught a pass as he cut to the basket on a pick-and-roll and but passed up the opportunity to go one-on-one against Corey Maggette to feed a wide-open Martin for another three-pointer.
“Our point guards, just did a phenomenal job sharing the ball,” Roger Mason Jr. said after connecting on a season-high five three-pointers and scoring 17 points. “John Wall had a huge impact on the game, without even shooting too much. He had only two points, but he probably had the biggest impact on the team. He set the tempo when the game started. Making plays for his teammates, and it spread honestly.”
Wall’s enthusiasm was captured in the third period, when Vesely got a rebound and tossed the ball ahead to Wall. Bobcats swingman Maggette tried to stop Wall, but Wall made a spin move to get separation, darted ahead, then brought the ball around his waist to get around Biyombo. He jumped, passed the ball to Mason for a three-pointer that gave the Wizards an 80-55 lead and high-stepped back on defense as if he had just scored the winning touchdown.
“It all starts with the point guard,” Wall said. “The point guard is the head of the snake and I think some matchups, a lot of the point guards got the better of me and we lost those games. Not just scoring-wise, but leading the team and doing the little things, I got better [on Monday]. And we did as a team.”
As a reminder that he was back in familiar surroundings, Wall had a box of the Charlotte-based Bojangles’ chicken waiting for him in his locker room stall after the game.
“I had to get that, down south. You know how we do,” Wall said with a laugh. “I needed that.”
He also needed a game like he had in Charlotte to remind him that some nights, less is more.