Wizards’ John Wall ready to end streak after squashing beef

I didn't say you were soft, Roy, but your scheme didn't work. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
I didn’t say you were soft, Roy, but your scheme didn’t work. (Nick Wass/Associated Press)

The most intense four-game stretch of the final month will continue on Tuesday when the Wizards head to New York to take on the NBA’s hottest team at Madison Square Garden.

“It don’t get no easier and we know New York is on a 12-game winning streak, so why not try to be ones to surprise them – and beat them?” Wall said, flashing a grin.

With their own postseason hopes officially dashed last week, the Wizards have accepted the role of playoff spoiler down the stretch. They damaged Indiana’s chances of catching the Knicks for the second overall seed on Saturday with a convincing 104-85 victory at Verizon Center, where Wall erupted for 37 points, with 26 coming in the first half.

The Pacers trail the Knicks by 2½ games for the homecourt advantage in the second round and would need some help from the Wizards if they hope to make an unlikely run to catch them. But no matter what happens as the Wizards attempt to tie the season series against the Knicks, Wall no longer has to worry about engaging in a war of words with Pacers center and former Georgetown star Roy Hibbert.

An innocent but misinterpreted comment by Wall about Indiana’s big men “playing soft” nearly escalated when Hibbert responded with a takedown. When asked how he was able to succeed against one of the league’s best defenses, Wall responded by saying, “We talked about it before the game that their bigs were playing soft. My bigs did a great job setting screens. I came out focused and I was able to knock down shots right away.”

Hibbert got wind of Wall’s comments and immediately took offense, believing that Wall was questioning the toughness of Indiana’s frontcourt players. Without realizing that Wall was discussing the Pacers’ defensive scheme of staying back to protect the rim rather than contesting jumpers – otherwise known as “playing soft” – Hibbert came back hard.

“[Washington] went out there and they played hard. John Wall was determined to get around our “soft” bigs, I guess,” he said. “You have to tip your hat off to those guys. They’re changing their season around before they go fishing.

“[Wall] can say what he wants to say. He’s entitled to it. He’s a good player. We have a chance to compete for a championship. They have a chance to compete for the No.1 pick.”

Wall and Hibbert eventually spoke to clear up the misunderstanding, then Hibbert and Wall announced on Twitter than the situation had been resolved.

“Just spoke 2 @John_Wall n cleared up somethings. Def should have hit him up 1st before opening my mouth pause* . @John_Wall is a good dude,” Hibbert wrote on his account, @Hoya2aPacer.

Wall then replied, “appreciate it big homie..never said Indy has soft bigs just said they play a soft concept in pick and roll…they got good bigs”

Situation diffused. And on to New York. And after that, the defending champion Miami Heat.

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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Michael Lee · April 8, 2013