…he was alone in an abandoned locker room, folded in an office chair with enough lumbar support to carry the weight of his woes.
John Wall has been chosen to be D.C.’s defender — a challenge made that much more difficult since it too often appears that he’s been fated to do so alone. Wall’s teammates have been blessed with the power of flight, but also cursed with invisibility. After being defeated by Warriors from the Golden State this past Wednesday, John Wall put out a quiet plea for help.
On Saturday night, the Wizards were down 68-72 after three tightly contested quarters; Minnesota and Washington were never separated by more than eight points. The coaching staff once again signaled for a gritty, high-energy combination to save the day … while tightening the reins on liabilities. A league of unsung heroes again rose to the occasion to establish order in the most powerful city in the world. Joining John Wall were Cartier Martin, The Enlightened One; Mo Evans, The Old Hand; Trevor Booker, The Beast; and Andray Blatche, The Scapegoat.
“I was extremely happy with the energy our guys played with overall,” said head coach Flip Saunders in his postgame press conference. Saunders also went on to praise the much-maligned Blatche for his sustained effort and fighting spirit and rightfully so. Blatche, of course, has been routinely criticized by fans, the conglomerated media, and even opposing players for ho-hum performances. But last night, he earned his keep and deserved the credit. Blatche and the Wizards scored 35 points to close the game, after scoring just 68 points through the first three quarters. The focus and determination over the last 12 minutes lifted the team to victory, en route to breaking a miserable 7-game losing streak.
A lineup of (never) has-beens stepped out of the shadows and into the spotlight. They out-shot, out-rebounded, out-worked, and out-paced the Minnesota Timberwolves. How many times have you said that about any five-man combination this season? You can tally that total one on hand and have fingers left to spare.
The defining moments of the fourth quarter came courtesy of Trevor Booker, a man suffering from a stomach virus who needed to take several handfuls of medicine just to suit up. TAI’s Rashad Mobley joked that Booker must have had the same virus Michael Jordan did when he dropped 45 points on the Utah Jazz. His explosive back-to-back tip-slams fired up the crowd and burned the retinas of any and all spectators.
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At the end of the night, Andray Blatche and John Wall were a few stat-padding nuggets from triple-doubles. John Wall finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds, and 8 assists; Blatche racked up 20 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists of his own. Both decided to pursue the collective good, rather than the self-aggrandizement of statistical spoils. Wall took care of the ball and, when the script called for his close-up, he took over the game. Blatche was constantly prodded by double-teams late, but kept his composure and found open teammates. In fact, he took just one shot over the last 18 minutes. The team’s focus was on quality execution and getting a win.
“The main thing is we played great, we played hard,” said John Wall with a smile and radiating youthful exuberance. “We knew how to close out the game. We did a great job of being patient, running the clock down, and finding the right people. We saw double-teams, but moved the ball. We drove and penetrated and found people.”
Almost overnight, the Wizards seem to be coming of age. They are realizing the value — the necessity — of a winning mentality, a consistent work effort, and positive emotions.
The question now becomes whether they can keep this up. Can they continue to tap into their potential together, or will they continue to shoulder the load individually? The next chapter of this saga will be written tonight in Detroit. In the Palace of Auburn Hills against the Pistons.
The Wizards should be confident. They have always had the ability, but are now empowered by the proper the attitude. At the very least, John Wall is reinvigorated and ready for more action. The Wizards hit rock bottom, but from here on out, it’s up, up, and away.
John Converse Townsend is a writer, a runner, and a brother. John was raised among wolves in Mexico and India, but today finds comfort living in Third World America. He made chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast this morning. Follow John on Twitter @JohnCTownsend