“I feel like I haven’t played a great game in the playoffs yet,” Wall said after Thursday’s practice. “But you can say I was composed and running my team and getting those guys involved.”
Through seven games, Wall is averaging 7.3 assists, good for fifth best in the playoffs. Among the top 10 assists leaders, Wall is averaging the fewest turnovers with 2.0 per game.
But after leading the Wizards in scoring during the regular season and captivating fans with his athleticism in winning the dunk contest before taking the floor the next night as a first-time all-star, Wall’s lack of offensive production has left some scratching their heads.
Entering Friday’s Game 3, Wall is averaging 16.1 points on 32.7 percent shooting from the field, including just 16.7 percent from three-point territory. He’s particularly struggled against Indiana’s defense, shooting a combined 6 for 27 in the first two games.
So far, his best performance came in Washington’s series-clinching win in Game 5 against Chicago, when he had 24 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
But with Indiana adjusting its strategy to contain Wall’s speed and, subsequently, the Wizards up-tempo offense, the fourth-year point guard has had to make adjustments — many of which have been key to Washington having opportunities to win in the first two games.
Wall ranks third in these playoffs with 22.2 points created by assists per 48 minutes and is second in assist opportunities (passes that lead directly to a shot) with 14.9, according to NBA.com’s Player Tracking Data.
“Some nights I have to be a decoy and get assists,” Wall said. “One thing I can say I like is how I’m becoming better leader and not turning the ball over throughout these playoffs and giving my team an opportunity every play down to get a shot up.”
Wall’s playmaking ability played a big role in Marcin Gortat having his best game of the playoffs on Wednesday with 21 points and 11 rebounds. With the game toned down to a deliberate pace, Wall and Gortat often ran high pick-and-roll situations, leading to two thunderous Gortat dunks.
“He’s doing a lot of different things for us. He gave me five, six bounce passes in the pick and roll that I was able to turn into points,” said Gortat, who admitted that his Game 2 performance helped boost his confidence. “Obviously the last three minutes of the game, you know, two quick threes, now we could talk about, we could do different things. But at the same time, if he would make those threes, we would say it was a great decision. Listen, it happened. He’s a part of the team, he’s our leader and I’ll roll with him any day.”
In Wall’s mind, the key for both he and the Wizards bouncing back from their Game 2 loss is to throw the first punch in Friday’s games. Having the Verizon Center crowd behind them should help, but a breakout offensive performance could also be in store for Wall, who has been antsy to get back on the court following his struggles in Game 2.
“The main focus is just going out there and playing our game of moving the ball, playing 48 minutes of defensive pressure,” Wall said. “It’s whoever throws that first punch who basically gets themselves going. We did that in Game 1 and we need to do that in Game 3.
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