John Wall spared no one — and no thing — during his Sunday night rampage.
In the second quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers, Wall’s best game of the season was only gaining steam when he attacked the basket. Quick-handed Lonzo Ball stood to his left and shot-blocking Tyson Chandler to his right, but Wall split the defense and zipped to the rim. As the whistle blew to signal a foul, Wall’s shot went awry. Frustrated, Wall frowned and connected on a mean right jab to the stanchion.
Inanimate objects could not withstand Wall’s wrath, and flesh-and-blood defenders didn’t fare much better in the Washington Wizards’ 128-110 blowout of the Lakers.
In a game in which Wall shared the floor with LeBron James, the greatest player of this generation, the Wizards’ five-time all-star dominated. Wall played 42 minutes and scored a season-high 40 points on 16-for-27 shooting to go with 14 assists, six rebounds, three steals and two blocks. The night stood in stark contrast to some of his more ineffective performances, such as in the Wizards’ Friday night loss at Brooklyn, where Wall needed 16 shots to reach 17 points.
“Just being aggressive, just trying to get downhill and attack the basket,” Wall said after the Wizards (12-18) snapped a four-game losing streak. “Kind of disappointed how I played in Brooklyn. Not being aggressive. When I’m aggressive, it makes it easier for guys offensively.”
Wall’s line resembled something James is accustomed to posting in Washington. Throughout his career, James has made the Chinatown arena his playground. Last season, he beat the Wizards with a 57-point game. A season before, James nailed a three-pointer to force overtime in what ultimately was a 140-135 Wizards loss to his Cleveland Cavaliers.
The 33-year-old James appeared to be going through the motions Sunday on the second night of a back-to-back and watched much of the fourth quarter from the bench. James missed 11 of his 16 shots — he was even blocked in the back by Jeff Green — and the Lakers were unable to take advantage of a short Wizards rotation. The pending trade for Trevor Ariza rendered Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers unavailable, and with Otto Porter Jr. missing his third straight game with a right knee contusion and Markieff Morris sitting out the second half with a neck strain, the Wizards had few LeBron-stoppers available.
It didn’t matter. James finished with just 13 points — his lowest regular season total against the Wizards.
“We did a good job of making it difficult on him, showing him a lot of bodies, active hands, making sure he wasn’t getting his own misses and putting them back quick and just making a difficult for him,” said Bradley Beal, who joined Wall with a double-double of 25 points and 12 rebounds. “He loves to pass just being able to do both. It’s all the extra effort on the defensive end, and I think we had it tonight.”
The win matched the Wizards’ largest margin of victory over a James-led team (Feb. 7, 2004, when Washington beat Cleveland, 106-88).
The Wizards go as their franchise leader goes. When Wall won a foot race for an offensive rebound against Kyle Kuzma, it was easy to see why the Wizards won the rebounding battle for only the fifth time this season.
After tossing in one of his layups in the first quarter, Wall immediately located Ball and stayed in his personal space 90 feet from the Lakers’ hoop. His defense was a major reason the Wizards held the Lakers to 42.9 percent shooting with 22 missed shots from beyond the arc through three quarters. Wall started fast — making his first four shots from different spots on the floor — and behind his spark, the Wizards opened an 18-point lead in the first quarter.
“When he gets going like that,” newly acquired Sam Dekker said, “he sets the tone for us.”
At the end of the first half, Wall lofted a rainbow from the baseline over the 7-foot-1 Chandler. As the shot swished through, he turned courtside and celebrated by sharing a special handshake with Bruce Beal, Bradley’s older brother, then stretched his arms wide to soak up the adoration.
“Just hot, just in the zone. I [was] in a hot rhythm,” Wall said about the shot, before adding, “I know all the Lakers fans out there were probably upset.”
Wall has faced James 19 times in his career, and Sunday marked only the fifth time that Wall has outscored the King.
“He’s obviously the key,” Coach Scott Brooks said. “Him and Brad are the key. They are the best players, they are all-star players, but they need to bring that energy every night. It goes on them, and then our role players need to be stars in their roles.”
Dekker continued to ingratiate himself to his new team with 20 points in 22 minutes on 10-for-15 shooting. Green added 20 as Porter’s replacement in the starting lineup.
Porter is expected to undergo an MRI exam on his right knee, according to a person familiar with the situation. Porter has not missed three games in a row since January 2016.