John Wall began Monday averaging 27.3 points, 10.9 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game while shooting 54.6 percent from the floor and 45.5 percent from three-point range in the Washington Wizards’ eight games since Dec. 1. Given Washington’s injury situation, in addition to the numbers, it was perhaps the best stretch of his career. Expecting him to sustain the outstanding run without a blip would have been unrealistic.
But Monday’s 112-95 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies exhibited how much the shorthanded Wizards are going to depend on Wall until they’re complete again. After posting at least 26 points and seven assists in five straight games, Wall recorded a season-low six points on 2-of-11 shooting and nine assists to go with four turnovers in 28 minutes. All of his points came on a pair of three-pointers in the first quarter. He missed five other three-point attempts.
“Any time John Wall takes 11 shots and seven of them are threes, that’s not who he is,” Wizards Coach Randy Wittman said. “He’s been playing at a pretty high level coming into here and that ratio is not very good for us.”
Ultimately, defense, not offense, was Washington’s biggest problem Monday as it has been much of the season, but the Wizards have admitted they’re currently a team that plays better defense when they’re making shots. It is a reality they want to change but their reality nonetheless. And Wall is usually the player either making or creating shots for others when he’s on the floor.
Earlier in the season, the Wizards had more options to turn to when Wall was not having his best night. But with Bradley Beal and Nene out, the choices have dwindled. Otto Porter Jr. picked up some of the slack with a career-high 28 points in a win over the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday — alongside 26 points and 16 assists from Wall — but he netted just two on Monday. Gary Neal registered a season-high 24 points Monday, but, oddly, the Wizards are just 1-6 when he scores at least 14 in a game.
Wall explained that the Grizzlies, who sometimes play with two bigs, effectively foiled any transition opportunities because they didn’t send many to crash the offensive glass, packed the paint to force Wall to shoot over the defense, and double teamed him off pick-and-rolls. It was all in attempt, Wall said, to either make him shoot a three-pointer or force another player to make a play. On Monday, the strategy worked.
“No matter how many shots my teammates miss or I miss,” Wall said, “I feel like if I have an open look I’m going to try to make the right play.”
HUMPHRIES PLAYS: Kris Humphries saw his first action in eight days after missing two games with a sprained left ankle and logging a “Did Not Play-Coach’s Decision” Saturday against the Mavericks. The 6-foot-9 Humphries, who began the season as Washington’s starting power forward, posted five points and five rebounds in 18 minutes.
UP NEXT: The Wizards will practice in San Antonio on Tuesday in preparation for their matchup with the Spurs on Wednesday night. The Spurs own the NBA’s second-best record at 21-5 and crushed the Utah Jazz, 118-81, on Monday night. Washington claimed the teams’ first meeting, 102-99, on a game-winning three-pointer from Beal at Verizon Center on Nov. 4. The Wizards are 7-12 since the victory.