CLEVELAND — John Wall has needed just three games to play up to his all-star status, making up for the lost time by averaging a double-double in points and assists. However, since his return, while Wall and his Washington Wizards teammates are trying to rekindle their chemistry of the past, their efforts have produced moments of miscommunication.
Over his three games, Wall has averaged 17.3 points and 12.7 assists as he has assumed his role as the primary pick-and-roll ballhandler and daring driver in the team’s up-tempo game. The downside: Wall has also averaged six turnovers per game, and in the last two games of the Wizards’ road trip (Houston and Cleveland), he has misread the thoughts of his teammates. In turn, teammates have misjudged his intentions.
On Thursday, with less than 10 seconds to play against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Wall attempted a fading midrange shot over LeBron James. When that shot didn’t fall — and convinced that trying to draw a foul would be futile — Wall had one last chance to tie the score, but ended the game by driving and kicking to a teammate who was not there. Instead, Cavaliers guard Cedi Osman intercepted the pass and made two clinching free throws in the 119-115 final.
“I already knew on the play before that I wasn’t going to get the call, so why put myself in that position?” Wall said, referring to his shot against James in which he, in the moment, looked for a foul. “I tried to find a teammate for a wide-open shot. You just give that guy credit for making a great defensive stop.”
When asked for his thoughts about the turnover, Coach Scott Brooks didn’t mind Wall’s plans.
“He was looking for teammates. We got to keep finding space,” Brooks said. “He does create so much force to the basket and a lot of eyes are on him, but we have to find openings. Just got to live with those attack plays and we made those throughout the game in the last three quarters.”
Wall’s presence over the past three games has created more scoring opportunities for teammates. He’s the helping hand — assisting on 6 of 15 field goals made by Marcin Gortat, 6 of 17 for Markieff Morris and 9 of 29 for Otto Porter Jr., according to statistics on NBA.com. However, he’s also not helping the turnover count.
The final play in Cleveland looked similar to several of the mistakes that Wall committed Tuesday night in the 120-104 loss to the Houston Rockets. After watching Wall speed down the court, get close to the rim and then turn and deliver the ball to an opponent a few times, Bradley Beal noted how reestablishing chemistry should be a responsibility of Wall’s teammates.
“That’s got to be on us,” Beal said. “He’s always been doing that. So we’ve got to make sure we’re running the lane, running the floor, being in the right positions. Because he does an excellent job with attracting a defense, to drawing multiple defenders to where we have open shots. So we’ve got to help him out on a lot of those.”
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