Wall Outshines Walker in Much-Needed Road Win | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wall Outshines Walker in Much-Needed Road Win

By
Updated: January 24, 2017

C254ISdUAAAn7aD

[photo via @recordsANDradio]

After a devastating loss at the buzzer in Detroit, the Wizards came out as if there was fire at their heels. Washington played like this game had special significance.

Maybe not as much meaning as tonight’s Boston Celtics (all black) funeral game, but in terms of end of season implications, the win over Charlotte has significance. The Hornets came into the contest just a half game back of the Wizards for the fifth seed in the East and with a win against one of the weaker road-performing teams in the NBA would have tied up the season series at a game apiece.

John Wall was having none of that.

Wall scored 18 of his 24 points in the first half as the Wizards built a 12 point halftime lead. It was critical that Wall played as well as he did in the first half because it took Bradley Beal a little while to shoot his way out of his slump.  Wall imposed his will on the helpless Hornets, getting to a rediscovered elbow jumper hot spot. Wall’s jumpers were falling in the first half, but in the second half he began to use it as a crutch, and wasted countless possessions waiting until the shot clock got all the way down and forcing up highly contested, fade-away shots. Wall is at his best when he is playing downhill and attacking defenders, keeping them on his toes. The fact that he added the mid-range jumper is a plus, no doubt, but it can not be something that is overused. Wall may not have had the ideal shot-selection in the second half, he did bring a high intensity level on the defensive end to limit Kemba Walker to 7-24 shooting from the field.

Walker has established himself as a formidable opponent for the Wizards and a pseudo-rival of John Wall, but Wall left last night’s game with a 10-6 record all-time against Kemba. The underlying issue between the two point guards is the fact that both are competing for a very limited number of reserve All-Star spots. With Kyrie Irving and DeMar DeRozan earning the starting spots it has left John Wall, Isaiah Thomas, Kyle Lowry, and Kemba Walker to compete for presumably three spots. In this scenario, Walker’s All-Star candidacy should not have much sway over the Eastern Conference coaches because he has not performed up to the same level as the other three players. Wall has inserted himself to the forefront of any reserve All-Star list with his dominating play over the last two months, earning Conference Player of the Month in December and then pulling this team up by the proverbial bootstraps to the 5th seed in the East.

Killer Turnovers

As good as John Wall played scoring the basketball, he left a bit to be desired in terms of ball security. John had five turnovers to just seven assists, which serves as a microcosm of the season. Wall is averaging a career high 4.3 turnovers per game and a part of of that has to do with the fact that he has a career high usage rate of 30.6%. The Wizards as a team had 14 turnovers compared to only eight for the Hornets, and that lackadaisical approach allowed the Hornets to stay competitive in a game that they had no business being in while shooting only 38.9 percent. The only reason that the Wizards’ turnover problem did not ruin the night was the fact that the Hornets were only able to convert those 14 turnovers into nine points, whereas the Wizards were able to score 14 points off of the eight Hornets miscues. What the Wizards turnover problem did was continuously stop the momentum from going on that decisive run that could have ended the game. This team has been very good at coming back from double-digit deficits, but still needs a little work on being proper front-runners. Too many times yesterday, the Wizards offense became stagnant because they haven’t quite figured out how to run an efficient and time-killing offense.  This is something that can only be learned through in-game experience, and knowing how to hold on to build leads is a good problem to have.

Role Player Roll Call

Markieff Morris: Keef is turning himself into a much more dependable scoring option for this team, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that he’s not settling for as many isolation jumpshots as he was earlier in the season. He was able to hit one very clutch, high-arcing isolation 3-pointer in the fourth quarter that even Phil Chenier admitted was a bad shot. But it went in. Keef is at his best as a bowling-ball of power, attacking the rim and playing through contact or drawing the contact and finishing at the free throw line. Last night Morris was an efficient 8-for-13 from the floor and 5-for-5 from the free throw line, as he finished with 23 points and eight rebounds. Morris was also a very solid help defender when switching on the pick-and-rolls and having to pick up Kemba Walker 30 feet away from the basket. If Keef can continue to play this style of basketball, he will assuredly make the fan base appreciate Ernie’s deadline day move a whole lot more.

Otto Porter: One of the leading 3-point shooters in the NBA shot 2-for-6 from deep and brought his A-game on the defensive end helping to limit Nicholas Batum and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to a combine total of 12 points on 6-for-17 shooting from the field. Add that to the fact that Porter was the Wizards’ leading rebounder with 13 boards, and you could easily see how he is making his case to be signed for near max-money this summer.

Marcin Gortat: Gortat, who had eight points and seven rebounds in just 29 minutes, is turning into the forgotten man in the Wizards offensive hierarchy. His rebounding and screen setting is more than enough for him to maintain his role as a key cog in the Wizards rotation. Head coach Scott Brooks is noticing something that Randy Wittman did in past seasons and that is the fact that Gortat is not an ideal defender to have on the court in end-of-game situations because his foot-work isn’t the best and teams take advantage of that fact by constantly putting him in pick-and-roll situations to attack him. Gortat only played five minutes of fourth quarter action and Brooks elected to insert Kelly Oubre into the lineup to close out the final minute instead of Gortat, presumably because Oubre is a much better option to defend pick-and-roll action.  Gortat may also be a “victim” of the Jason Smith’s  2017 success (six points and five rebounds last night and in the month of January he’s averaging season highs in points (7.5), rebounds (3.5) and minutes (16.5).

Kelly Oubre: When the Hornets started chipping away at a 15 -point third quarter lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter, it was Wave Papi who came to the rescue with eight quick points to stave off the Hornets run. Oubre was active as hell on the defensive end, converting two of those Hornets turnovers into fast break dunks, and Oubre also hit two out the three 3-pointers he took. The biggest sign of Oubre’s growth as a player was one instance in the fourth quarter where he passed up on an open 3-point shot of his own to find a wide-open Otto Porter in the corner for a three. In his rookie season Oubre would have taken that contested shot, and it would have more than likely missed, but now he is learning to become a better team player and realizing that when the most consistent 3-point shooter in the NBA is open for the easiest shot in the game, you get him the ball

Trey Burke: Burke continues to log the majority of the minutes at the backup point guard position, despite the fact that Scott Brooks does not consider Trey to even be a point guard. On this night he showed flashes of the play-maker that could resemble a point guard in a certain light. Burke finished with six point and four assists, as he got into a nice rhythm in the second quarter running the pick-and-roll with Markieff Morris. The thing that has hindered Burke from being effective as a backup point guard this season is the fact that when he is running the team instead of John Wall, the teams offense becomes so stagnant because they are not running as many actions. Last night was ideal for Burke because the Wizards resembled an NBA team when Burke was running sets instead of bobbing and weaving his way through traffic to shoot a fade away jumper as he normally does. Burke did not commit any turnovers and the Wizards offense flourished under his watch as he accounted for 14 Wizards points in just 12 minutes of game action.

Troy Haliburton on Twitter
Troy Haliburton
Writer
Troy Haliburton is a native Washingtonian, and graduate of Gonzaga College High School and Morehouse College. He is going into his second season writing for Truth About It, and also writes for sports analytics website numberfire.com. You can find him in a district bike lane in the Northwest neighborhood of Bloomingdale.