Whew. Did we ever need to see an ass-whooping like the one the Wizards put on the Pacers last night in Indy. Thanks to John Wall’s long, LONG coveted breakout performance and a godly showing by Marcin Gortat, the Wizards survived elimination and live to see another playoff night.
Where do we even start; Wall’s 27/5/5? Gortat’s mammoth stat line of 31 and 16 to go with his .867 shooting percentage? How about the absurd rebound narrative? Mindless of which angle you take, the Wizards were due for a shell shocking performance, and it couldn’t have come at a better than on elimination night after suffering two heart-wrenching home losses in Games 3 and 4.
For John Wall in particular, this was monumental. Maligned by fans questioning his confidence after failing to close out Game 4, Wall led the Wizards to a demolition of the Pacers in front of their home fans, some of which were already calling for Miami. But slow down whodie.
Before Game 5 began, Randy Wittman called John Wall’s progression as a playoff point guard a “process”: The process of enduring the tribulations of postseason failure and the importance of playing through the struggles and never letting up or folding. Well, John has just experienced another element of this process: the bounce-back; the resilience; staving off setbacks and countering them with adjustments and improvement. Michael Lee’s column this morning about Wall and Marcin Gortat’s demeanor the night before and just prior to the Game 5 tipoff was cash money. According to Lee’s story, Wall was so dejected by his performance in Game 4 that he evaded all text messages from friends and family and declined any offers of a pep talk. He wanted to hear nothing Marcin Gortat wanted to tell him, even though Gortat finally drove it in his ear that he’s with him no matter what. John also couldn’t elude Randy Wittman’s text telling him to “Just believe in yourself.” Knowing of John’s self-regard and impeccable strength of soul, he didn’t really need that reminder, but perhaps he did. Perhaps it was just the push he needed to maintain the confidence to attempt 16 jump shots from 15 feet or more including three 3-pointers. He shot them assertively and aggressively. While the Pacers’ perimeter defense continued to put up a cushion against Wall’s shot attempts, Wall suffocated them with that cushion by knocking down J after J. And if Wall’s shooting momentum carries over into tomorrow night, how will Indy respond then?
But perhaps a real testament to how valuable Wall is for his teammates, this franchise, and Wizards fans is the two minute spiel Marcin Gortat gave the media about his beloved point guard:
via Michael Lee:
“A lot of people disappointed with the way we played Game 3 and 4. But end of the day, I’m with him. End of the day, I’m going to jump in the fire behind this guy. He plays good or bad, I’m going to have his back and that’s what I told him before the game. We can’t put pressure on the guy who play for the first time in his life in the playoffs. He’s whatever, 23, 24 years old, whatever how old. We can’t put pressure on him like that. And we can’t just blame the kid every time the team lose, we blame him. I understand he’s the leader, he’s the head of the snake. But there is another 12 guys on the team, there’s another six, seven coaches on the team. You can’t blame one guy for that. I understand the business. When he scores 30 and 15, the team is winning, everybody is going to be excited, everybody is going to tap his shoulder, but when team loses, he’s going to be blamed for everything. We can’t do this kid like that. He wants to win.”
Now, John brings his boys back home to continue the journey of surviving the second round tomorrow night at the Booth, the telephone booth, or however else Charles Barkley decides to label it. To our fortune, D.C. gets another shot. We get another night of potential glory; another night of beloved Wizards basketball.