Welp. So much for 16-0, right? Or, wait. Was I the only one legitimately tallying consecutive postseason wins on a flip chart with the notion that it could all actually end without a single loss? Perhaps the transformations of #PlayoffRandy and #PlayoffPanda had me out of my mind a little bit. Perhaps the historic postseason road record had me warped in a euphoric trance that I convinced myself would never end. Perhaps I should tone down the optimism. The Wizards’ joyride spun over a deep, smoking pothole on 1 Philips Drive last night and they’ve got three days to patch the damaged rubber.
The final consensus after Game 2, summed up in less than 140 Twitter censored characters:
Get well, @JohnWall. Get f*cking well.
— Hoop District (@HoopDistrictDC) May 6, 2015
The tone for Game 2 was set fairly early in the day on Tuesday. Thanks to images of John Wall’s hand mutated into a bear paw surfacing the interwebz and Twitter timelines, many had already began subscribing to the notion that the Wizards were f*cked if they had to play with a one-handed Wall. And as per usual, the comic relief was promptly supplied by us.
John Wall going into Game 3 like pic.twitter.com/hYc3HBZ4Zg
— Hoop District (@HoopDistrictDC) May 5, 2015
Then, as pregame shootaround commenced, it was revealed last minute that John Wall would indeed sit out Game 2, a decision that certainly seems to bode well for the long run, and especially given the Wizards’ four-day gap in between Games 2 and 3. There’s no question Wall’s hand looked awful. It looked awful when it was first revealed by J. Michael in the afternoon, and evidently looked worse before tip-off:
— Adam McGinnis (@adammcginnis) May 5, 2015
So.. no John Wall, no problem, right?
— Marc (@mweller33) May 5, 2015
Shieeet. More like, No John Wall: MO’ PROBLEMZ. In a shiny suit and everything.
The Wizards, despite concerted efforts in each quarter to not get ransacked by an Atlanta onslaught, only trailed by five after three quarters but stumbled in the 4th, missing 11 of 15 shots, and missing John Wall even more. A 106-90 loss put the Wizards right where we anticipated them to be, and, for now, the optimism going into Game 3 remains, sort of, but not really. The hope is that with a two-game split in Atlanta, a rested John Wall, and the next two games at The Booth, there is a propensity for better times. But theories can be deemed futile upon any give Twitter update, as we hold our breaths while John gets set for a third opinion on his injured wrist.
For now, here’s a few things to point out from Game 2:
Ramon Sessions maxed out.
John Wall accounts for a huge fraction of the Wizards offense, and that’s obvious.
If, for whatever reason (or perhaps the reason is your subscription to Colin Cowherd’s podcast), you are not convinced of John’s value, the please consider this: Men lie. Women lie. NBA.COM/STATS DNT.
John Wall's absence for Gm2 looms large..He's creating 30.8 Points Per Game this Playoffs off assists alone, 10.9 more than any other player
— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) May 5, 2015
In Game 3 against the Raptors, Wall’s 19-15 helped produce this analysis:
John Wall has scored or assisted on 54% of #Wizards offense tonight
— Hoop District (@HoopDistrictDC) April 25, 2015
So, yeah. Ramon’s mission to cover THAT big of a void seemed quite impracticable. To step in and lead a team to a second consecutive road win in the second round of the playoffs seemed implausible. And we were right. He certainly couldn’t complete the mission. But in a game like this, where you’re missing damn near half of what creates your offense, you look for the outliers, and you look for the effort that is generated to try and produce a win and you feed off of that, even if you don’t ultimately win. And especially if you don’t win but are still tied 1-1 going back home. Ramon had 21 points in Game 2. 10 of them came in a big 3rd quarter. Also throw in a few assists (5 to be exact), a few boards (3 to be exact), a few three’s (3-of-5), and only two turnovers.
While Sessions is careful with the rock and can moderately control the game, he most definitely doesn’t share the same floor vision John Wall does and that’s where the Wiz were depleted the most, having to resort to a ton of one-on-one ball. But kudos to Sessions for giving it his all. We won’t forget it.
And we certainly won’t forget this kiss off a cloud.
[Editor’s note: “NoNo Hilarious” was originally a name coined by the infallible @WizzNutz in a tweet last season. I still find it radically funny to this day and feel this is the perfect moment to ring it back up.]
What the f*ck, though? Actually, make that a double WTF. The first one pertaining to the question of WTF has become of Nene, and the second WTF asking Randy Wittman why he remained committed to him on the floor. Marcin Gortat fouled out at around midway through the 4th quarter and I’m not quite sure where it hurt the Wizards the most, having to lose their best defender in the paint, or having to continue playing the guy who’s arguably been the worst of anyone in the rotation in these playoffs. Nene has not scored a single basket in the postseason thus far. In fact, he really hasn’t done shit since his abuse of Joakim Noah in the first round LAST year. It’s almost as if he has some sort of cash-out clause for the final year of his contract and is ready to bounce ASAP.
This + this pic.twitter.com/UsG8LUHFHP
— Hoop District (@HoopDistrictDC) May 6, 2015
There are several factors to Nene’s ongoing demise but the biggest of them all has to be the lack of lift he’s getting out of his legs. Legs, mind you, that we know have been tarnished and on the decline for quite some time. His body fuel simply seems to be running dry and I’m not sure if he has any energy or passion left to replenish. What does this mean for the Wizards moving forward? I don’t think much in terms of lineup change. Wittman will likely continue starting Nene which I’m not completely against given his replacement would be Gooden whom I really prefer to come off the bench as a spark. Do we want to see more Kris Humphries? Maybe perhaps, but the key to the equation is Nene’s minutes have to be managed better, meaning pulling him out much sooner than he has been, especially when he starts to waste away critical possessions, like he has been.
John Wall is everything.
Yeah, I had to come back to this one more time. Looking at the stat sheet, you’ll realize the production the Wizards got from guys who stepped up. Notably his replacement Ramon Sessions who I’ve already addressed, but also this:
Paul Pierce: 15 points, all from downtown.
Bradley Beal: 20 points on 22 shots taken; 7 assists; 5 rebounds; 3 steals.
Otto Porter: another stat filler with 15 points off the bench; 5 assists 8 rebounds; 3 steals.
What was missing was still everything, though. It is true that Washington’s postseason Godfather in Paul Pierce put in his normal work, and that Bradley Beal did his best impersonation of his #HouseOfGuards comrade with seven assists, and that Otto Porter continued to steal hearts with his hustle and flow. But it was the facilitation that Wall provides, the relentless attack mode he’s in that keeps defenses in reverse, the artful and deceptive manner in which he trolls the opposition with his ball handling and extraterrestrial vision that was absent last night, and it was what inevitably stagnated the Wizards from creating enough offense to keep up with the Hawks in the 4th quarter. Without Wall, the Wizards are dramatically less frightening, which naturally gives their opponents an edge. Get well, John Wall. Get f*cking well.