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Game Notebook 46, Wizards at Lakers: John Wall plays through pain; takes over Hollywood

Wizards 98
Lakers 92

January 27, 2015 – Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA

Like the majority of celebs who show up late to the Staples Center nowadays just for post-dinner laughs and dessert, the Wizards took their sweet time before finally marking their presence last night. It took a dominating 3rd quarter and every bit of a broken John Wall in the final six minutes of the 4th quarter for the Wizards to complete a 25 point turnaround and beat the Lakers. This was a game the Wizards were supposed to win, and lethargic starts be damned, the end result was exactly that.

Over the course of John Wall’s career, a lot of different adjectives have been used to define his game. Quick, smart, strong. I discussed in my post yesterday post about Wall being a world-class athlete and by my definition, in order to qualify for that label, one must attain the sheer will and the strength to tough out and overcome pain and injury, and do so while continuing to produce at a high end level. It’s a reason we praise guys like Kobe Bryant and Peyton Manning.

“I’m just a guy that always don’t want to let my guys down. I was dealing with not going through shoot-around, sick all day since [Monday] and just wanted to come out here and compete for my guys.”

Wall has reportedly been playing through some considerable pain in his lower body for a few weeks now, up to the point where his status for last night’s game was questionable due to a sore left Achilles. When the game tipped off, Steve Buckhantz informed us that on top of the sore leg, Wall was also experiencing migraines. And you and I and anyone who’s suffered from them know that migraines blow. And yet, John Wall refused to succumb. He refused to have ANY of it, really. Not the leg, not the head, and certainly not Wayne f*cking Ellington nor Jordan Clarkson. Wall led the Wizards on that furious comeback and finished with a stat line about as good as any he’s produced throughout his career, coming up just one rebound short of a triple double – no Andray Blatche – scoring 21 points to go with 13 assists and 3 steals.

About that first half, though.

The Wizards’ production in the first two quarters was about as nonexistent as Jack Nicholson in his plush courtside seat, only Jack would never show up. Ellington and Clarkson certainly showed up, each in a pair of glass slippers, combining for 33 first half points. But it was right around midnight EST when the spell faded, and unlike the ending in Cinderella, the Lakers’ dreamy evening faded away into a meaningless memory.

Effing Jordan Clarkson, probably the second most infamous 2nd round draft pick to ever concern the Wizards. You think he had an iOS alarm set for last night’s game? Maybe more than just one, perhaps set upon every hour to remind him of the two million reasons he’s holding a grudge against Ted Leonsis and friends? Am I unfair for blatantly assume he owns an iPhone? By the end of the 1st quarter, Clarkson was already just three points shy of his career-high 14 points, knocking down 5 of 8 jumpers. Go figure for the guy who was drafted by the Wizards in last April’s draft then traded away for cash considerations. And Ellington was even more hot. He started off knocking down his first six shots and finished with 20 by halftime.

The Lakers owned a 19 point lead midway through the 2nd quarter and took an 11 point lead into halftime. The difference in the game for the Wizards up until that point? A lack of 3-point shots (of course), and missed free throws (OF COURSE!).

The Wizards finally got their groove back in time to take over the 3rd, led by Bradley Beal who seemed a lot more poised for better shots than we’ve noticed in recent weeks. Beal scored 9 of his 19 points in the 3rd, getting his body to the rim and actively searching for better ways to produce offense instead of routinely settling for midrange jumpers. Wall chimed in on the takeover with 6 points and 6 dimes. Otto Porter, who was in the lineup for a sore Paul Pierce, scored 5 of his 12 in the 3rd.

The Lakers’ spell officially broke around the 7:00 mark of that 3rd quarter when the Wizards went on a 14-0 run over the span of about five minutes. Five minutes in which the Lakers were highlighted by the shit show they normally are with Carlos Boozer, Jeremy Lin and Clarkson. The Wizards outscored the Lakers 29-19 in the 3rd quarter and only trailed by one going into the 4th where they would finally take their first lead of the game on a Rasual Butler 3.

The Wizards starters made things decisive late in the 4th after the bench unit managed to hold fort for a bit once the lead was taken. Wall’s 5 points in the final minutes and Beal’s dagger with 0:43 gave the Wizards an 8 point lead and that was pretty much all she wrote.

Scary moment in the game came with under a minute left when Wall rolled his ankle after stepping on a baseline cameraman. Wall limped for a few minutes but still came out to finish the game. During his post-game interview, Wall stated that the ankle soreness had been an ongoing issue, perhaps, if anything, shedding some relief that it may not be so serious.

Fave of the Night

Yes, I know after gloating about John Wall’s toughness and resilience that maybe a play of his should be a fave, but man, Bradley Beal is fun to watch when he’s loosened up. It’s too often that we see Beal restricted to midrange pullups, either by way of his own faulty decisions or Wittman’s playcall, so when he’s actually poised to open up and create some offense by other means, it’s one of the greatest things to watch. He’s simply too good at it to be neglectful.


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