Feeling good about his complete annihilation of one of the NBA’s superior defenses the night before, John Wall resumed his tear in the first quarter on Sunday against the Boston Celtics. Wall started the game by burying three jumpers from beyond 15 feet and added two driving layups, including an impressive reverse that brought the Wizards within one point near the end of the period.
In his only shot to defeat the Celtics this season after missing the first two games recovering from a left knee injury, Wall scored or assisted on 17 of the Wizards’ 27 points in the first quarter.
Wall appeared well on his way toward having another stellar performance to rival his 37-point effort on Saturday against Indiana. But he wouldn’t find those creases to penetrate through the Celtics’ defense and his jumper was either off-target or aggressively contested for the rest of the game. After scoring 10 points on 5 of 7 shooting in the first quarter, Wall was 3 of 13 the rest of the way and finished with just 16 points
“In the second quarter, I really didn’t have opportunities to get where I wanted to so I just found my teammates,” Wall said. “But I just missed a couple easy jump shots that I was making earlier in the game. I just kept playing aggressive and I missed a couple easy ones. They did start trapping me and I found my big men. We just weren’t able to knock down shots as a team together.”
Those problems were compounded because of Wall’s inability to get to the foul line. Before the game, Celtics Coach Doc Rivers mentioned how Wall has been able to get to the free throw line at “an alarming rate.” Since exploding for a career-high 47 points against Memphis on March 25, Wall had been averaging 12.9 free throw attempts per game and Rivers said, “That’s crazy.”
But the Celtics kept Wall from attempting any free throws for just the second time this season and the first time since a 96-95 loss on Feb. 27 against Detroit. Wall felt that he should’ve had a few opportunities to convert at the line. Late in the third quarter, he drove down the lane, got knocked on his backside and banged his head against the hardwood. He immediately hopped up and chased down Shavlik Randolph but his overly aggressive attempt to block the shot with two hands ended with him collecting a flagrant foul.
“Third quarter, I think some calls didn’t go my way, but that’s just how the game goes sometimes,” Wall said. “You just got to keep playing.”
Wall eventually broke through after that play as he stole a pass from Jason Terry and threw down a one-handed jam that ended a string of five straight misses – but only brought the Wizards within 14 points.
Avery Bradley, a converted shooting guard, has filled in at point guard for the injured Rajon Rondo since the all-star was lost for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and has routinely given opposing point guards fits this season. Bradley, who was in the same high school class and draft class as Wall, has battled the former No. 1 overall since they met each other once in AAU and made him earn whatever he got.
“I love it. We love battling against each other,” Bradley said. “He’s a very good player. This is what I play the game for, every single night to play against players like John; He’s very talented, very good.”
Wall praised Bradley before the game for his tenacious defense. “Not too many that will guard you 94 feet the whole game. I don’t know how he finds the energy to do it,” Wall said. “There is no playing around with him, just get by him. He’s nobody you want to do fancy dribbling with. He does a great job of cutting people off and getting a lot of steals. You just have to get into your offense and go.”
The Celtics used a solid defensive scheme to throttle Wall and force the Wizards into being a jump shooting team. And, with Kevin Garnett back after an eight-game absence to lead the defense, Boston limited the Wizards to just 40.9 percent shooting in the final three quarters.
“We play a team like this and when you’re not playing great defensively, you have to be able to make shots and we had a tough night,” said Wall, adding that he wasn’t surprised to see Garnett come back from a left ankle injury against the Wizards. “It seems like every time we play somebody, they bring everybody back. So we used to it by now.”