A Game 7 Wizards Win Will Cement John Wall’s Shot in Franchise Lore | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

A Game 7 Wizards Win Will Cement John Wall’s Shot in Franchise Lore

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Updated: May 15, 2017

[Picture via the Washington Post]


Mike Krzyzewski, Colin Cowherd, John Feinstein, Jason Reid, Stan Van Gundy, Thomas Boswell, David Falk, ESPN writers, Unnamed NBA executives and scouts — just a few of the notables who have publicly doubted John Wall throughout his basketball career. The skinny North Carolina kid never gave into the critics and kept working on his game. Wall eventually found professional success in All-Star berths and two, now three, post-season runs.

After the Wizards missed the playoffs in 2016 and Wall underwent two knee surgeries, the skeptics were back to questioning the point guard. His candid comments about his backcourt mate Bradley Beal fueled a sensational media frenzy in August. The Wizards’ slow start to 2016-17 season brought the media vultures circling back with absurd commentary on Wall. The team eventually rebounded from their sluggish beginning to finish fourth in the Eastern Conference. Wall put up career high numbers in leading Washington to their best regular season record in almost four decades. He has a solid chance to be named to an All-NBA team for the first time. He balled out in against Atlanta in the first round of playoffs to prevent this season from being considered a major disappointment.

Before Game 6 against Boston, a person close to the Wizards told me that if they didn’t win the game or if they happened to get blown out, like the Rockets, that this possibility could be the beginning of the end for Wall’s tenure as a Wizard. He could bolt D.C. for free agency in 2019. A home defeat to the Celtics would mark Wall’s third post-season trip to end at the same point. Factor in the front office blowing it in last season’s free agency, and the ownership group showing an unwillingness to spend into the luxury tax, it would not be far fetched for Wall’s people to start looking around at other long-term options.

All this context was necessary as Washington lined up to inbounds the ball, down two points, with 7.7 seconds left on the clock and “The Final Countdown” by Europe blearing over the speakers. Boston’s Al Horford had just made an incredible bank shot to give Boston the lead. The headline of “Horford Kills Wiz Again” was already typed up on laptops and ready to be published. Horford’s winning tip-in for Atlanta in Game 5 of 2015 Eastern Conference Semifinals is a bad memory for Washington fans.

Back to the play: Wall fakes like he is going to pop off a screen from Markieff Morris and runs to the corner. Marcin Gortat sets a screen for Morris, then goes to pick Beal’s man, Marcus Smart. The play appears to be centered around getting Bradley open at the top of the key. Things develop slowly, as Smart hugs tight to Beal and the inbounder, Otto Porter, looks away from Beal, who popped open too late. The clock is ticking close to a five-second call. Washington does have a timeout remaining but Porter opts to throw it to Wall, cutting toward him. Wall spins toward the hoop as his defender, Avery Bradley, backs off him a few feet, preparing for a possible drive. Meanwhile, Beal is now open again on the left wing, due to a massive back-pick laid by Gortat.

Wall doesn’t see Beal and takes two confident dribbles right into a launching a shot, two feet behind the 3-point line with 5.5 seconds left. Beal and Morris crash the boards. Ian Mahinmi has his arms squeezed around Kelly Oubre and Jason Smith on the Wizards bench. Everyone is standing in the arena in hushed anticipation as the ball is in the air, which feels like two weeks but actually is only two seconds. John Wall holds his follow through. The ball hits the inside of the rim on the left side and clangs through the net for a made 3. The Wizards now lead by one. The Phone Booth goes bonkers.

Boston calls their last timeout with 3.5 seconds left. Wall slowly struts around the court in a flexing motion. Morris, Trey Burke, and Sheldon Mac greet Wall with celebratory chest bumps. The home crowd continues to roar and wave shirts. Washington still needs a defensive stop in order for Wall’s shot to be the decisive one. The Wizards have a foul to give. Coach Scott Brooks inserts Oubre to do just that, and he immediately hugs Kelly Olynyk after the ball is passed toward him near the rim.

There is 1.7 seconds on the clock. Horford screens Wall, as Thomas breaks open on the left side. Morris switches to Thomas as he throws up an off balanced, contested 3. It goes awry, and the Wizards prevail, 92-91, to tie the series up at 3-3. Wall immediately runs to where his crew sits in the front row and hugs everyone. Then, Wall sprints to the scorers table, jumps on it, and celebrates with the jubilant fans.

In his post-game press conference, Wall was ticked off at Boston’s attire.

“I ain’t going home, said Wall. “Don’t come to my city, wearing all black, talking about it’s a funeral. We work too hard for this.”

After his rookie season, Wall told me that he had never been to Dupont Circle in D.C. Six years later, he is on national TV calling out another team for disrespecting his home.

Wall wasn’t the only player making big plays in crunch time for the Wizards, as Beal stepped up in the clutch — much needed. The duo combined to score 42 of Washington’s 51 second half points, including the team’s final 10 points in the last 68 seconds. The House of Guards delivered in the Phone Booth.

Wall’s game winner provided much joy for a D.C. sports fan base still shook from another Caps hockey failure two days prior in the same building. The warm memories last Friday night on Fun Street will never go away. However, the stark reality is that Wall’s shot avoided elimination but did not supply advancement. Defeating Boston tonight in Game 7 will earn them a trip to Cleveland for Eastern Conference finals and cement that Wall’s shot as one of the biggest in franchise history.

Video.

 

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Adam McGinnis
Reporter / Writer / Media at TAI
Adam is a bro from the Midwest who's been bopping around the District of Columbia for years. He's down with a range of sports, etc. and has covered the Washington Wizards for TAI since 2010.