In past games, a late-game error might have sunk Wall into a funk. But he recovered with a performance that offered a reminder of the clutch player he was on the verge of becoming before he missed more than three months with a stress injury in his left knee and spent the subsequent weeks trying to regain his legs and rhythm. Wall scored the final six points and blocked a potential go-ahead jumper by 76ers swingman Evan Turner to lead the Wizards to a 90-87 win at Verizon Center.
“It’s big for me,” Wall said after scoring a team-high 16 points and putting away the game with a rare pull-up jumper. “I’ve been struggling.”
Beal’s injury proved not to be too serious: The Wizards announced Monday that the promising rookie shooting guard would be day-to-day. But Wall’s desire and ability to make plays with his team in desperate need might prove to be the most important development from the game.
“It boosts my confidence even more,” Wall said. “Gives me confidence to just take those and don’t hesitate on those shots and trust that I can make them in the fourth quarter. I just want the ball down the stretch, and luckily I made a shot.”
Wall actually made two shots in the final 93 seconds, neither touching the rim.
“He been working the whole season,” Nene said. “That’s the answer for the critical guys who been talking bad about him.”
Wall has heard a chorus of negative comments despite leading the Wizards to a 14-11 record since making his season debut Jan. 12. The former No. 1 overall pick would love for the game to come more easily, for the lane to open wide whenever he decides to attack the basket and for his teammates to catch his passes and connect on shots every time he swings the ball their direction. But he gets down on himself when things don’t go his way and often cannot hide his frustrations — whether it’s with a pouty face or a shouting outburst.
After the win over Philadelphia, Coach Randy Wittman acknowledged that the root of Wall’s recent slump might have been more than simply missing shots or committing turnovers. Wall had so much success after making his debut that it was easy to forget he is still recovering from a serious knee injury.
“I don’t know how to tell you how hard it is for him to do what he had to do this year, in terms of sitting out three and a half months, where he didn’t have any activity of any kind on his feet. Then, for me to thrust him in as soon as he’s able to do something,” Wittman said. “When he’s not playing the way he’s capable, he gets frustrated a bit. But I thought the last couple of games, he’s calmed down a bit. He fought through it. He’s got to stay patient still. All that stability stuff that he doesn’t have will eventually come back.”