Wizards Coach Randy Wittman joined Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro on ESPN 980’s “The Sports Fix” on Tuesday, the day after Washington avoided an embarrassing loss to the Philadelphia Sixers, who are nearly as bad as the Golden State Warriors are good.
John Wall fueled Washington’s comeback win, scoring 21 of his game-high 37 points after Isaiah Canaan made a three-pointer and proceeded to stare down the Wizards’ bench midway through the third quarter.
Sheehan asked Wittman why Wall hasn’t always appeared comfortable taking over games — and not strictly from a scoring standpoint — as he did on Monday, on nights when the rest of the team is struggling.
“He’s getting it,” Wittman said. “I think he’s probably grown more in the area of understanding when he needs to score and when he needs to facilitate. He’s grown leaps and bounds in that this year. Sometimes, when you play 82 games, as much as you want to take over that game, you just maybe, that game, physically aren’t able to do what he did last night. I’m not making any excuses for him. There’s no question — every player in our locker room knows it, John knows it — how we go is how John goes. When he’s locked in and in tune and high-energy and pushing the ball, forget about whether he’s scoring points or not scoring points, that trickles down to everybody. That’s a lot to carry. I tell our guys that every day, in front of everybody, ‘How you go, John, is how we go,’ and we’ve got to help him and follow and push him in those instances.”
“Yeah, I think so,” Wall said Monday when my colleague Jorge Castillo asked if taking over games is part of his evolution. “I think sometimes when things aren’t going the right way, just being more aggressive but also doing it within the team concepts. Taking good shots, getting into a rhythm. Getting to the basket and just finishing plays.”
On Monday, the Wizards needed Wall to be a scorer, and he was. He scored at least 30 points for the third time this season, which moved him past Michael Jordan and into 13th place on the list of most 30-point games in Bullets/Wizards history.
The Wizards are 13-13 in Wall’s 26 career 30-point games, including 1-2 this season. The next player in his sights is Moses Malone, who scored at least 30 points 29 times during his two seasons in Washington. Gilbert Arenas holds the franchise record with 120 such regular season games.
ICYMI: John Wall had 26th career 30-Pt game, passing MJ for sole possession of 13th in Wizards history. pic.twitter.com/RDZU7aucsR
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) March 1, 2016
Sheehan, who was prepared to write off the Wizards’ playoff hopes had they lost last night, asked Wittman what he was thinking during the Sixers’ 26-4 run in the third quarter.
“There was a lot of things I was thinking, trust me,” Wittman said with a laugh. “No, it was a game we had to win. As I told the guys afterward, you don’t apologize for any wins, but we have to take an understanding of why we put ourselves in these situations. It is human nature, as much as us coaches try to make Philadelphia look like the next coming of Golden State, it’s a situation where we’re up 12 at halftime and just come out so lackluster thinking all we have to do is show up and ride out the game.”