John Wall's first home game against the Miami Heat was over after roughly 15 minutes, when he got kicked out for punching the free elbow-swinging center Zydrunas Ilgauskas in the midsection.
But the Wizards' 123-107 loss last March was more competitive than the score would suggest. And an earlier 95-94 loss, which included an epic fourth-quarter collapse on the day Gilbert Arenas was traded, proved how the Wizards never have to search for motivation with James and the Heat in town.
The Wizards (5-21) have struggled against weakened opponents missing their best players, with the recent loss to New York serving as the latest example. But their 105-102 victory over Oklahoma City was evidence of how the team tries to rise to the level of the competition.
“It just seems like when we play those teams, we always come out with a lot of energy, play as a team, and moving the ball and playing help-side defense, and then we play the teams that probably don’t have all their players and have a couple guys injured, and we relax and fall back,” Wall said. “You do that, guys are in the league for a reason, they can play. It’s just a great opportunity for those guys to step up, and that’s what they were doing [on Wednesday against the Knicks], and other teams be doing. We got to be aggressive from the start, and we wasn’t aggressive as a team on the defensive end” against New York.
Crawford, who famously had his dunk over James confiscated while he was in college, had a rough outing against New York, scoring just five points and missing 9 of 11 shots. He hopes to bounce back against the Heat but he doesn't expect to repeat his career night.
“It’s a different situation. I’m not playing as many minutes. I won't try to duplicate that,” Crawford said. “It’ll be pretty impossible, but it’s exciting to play against great players. It’s easy to play against guys that good, that everybody talk about, so it should be fun.”
Wall was only to play one full game against Miami as a rookie because of injuries and that ejection, but proved to be a blur when he scored 24 points and handed out 12 assists in a 121-113 loss last Feb. 25. He spoke to James several times last season and considered him a “big brother” but he hasn't reached out to the fellow former No. 1 overall pick as much during what has been a more challenging campaign.
“I’ve talked to him a little bit, but not too much," he said. "It’s a tight schedule so basically it’s focusing on my development and how my team’s doing, trying to get better and try to watch film and work on the things that I need to.”
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