John Wall Plays the Hero (Instead of Hero Ball) Against Orlando | Wizards Blog Truth About

John Wall Plays the Hero (Instead of Hero Ball) Against Orlando

Updated: January 13, 2018

SCOTT BROOKS WALKED into the media room after the Orlando Magic game wearing an expression that is normally reserved for the losing coach. He took a seat at the podium and before a reporter could utter a question he sighed and said, “Well, we wanted offense. We got it.”

Brooks’ statement cuts to the heart of the 2017-18 Washington Wizards. They can score with ease against most NBA teams but their defensive efficiency too often falls flat.

Washington waltzed through Orlando’s defense in the first half, racking up 65 points on 55.8% shooting, with the overwhelming majority of those baskets coming in the paint (20-for-30, 40 points). The first 24 minutes played out like a glorified layup line for Bradley Beal and John Wall.

Only one problem: Washington rolled out the same red carpet for Orlando’s offense.

The Magic scored 63 points on an absurd 63.2% shooting and nearly matched the Wizards’ paint scoring with 36. Washington offered zero resistance at the rim and turned Bismack Biyombo into a young Amare Stoudamire (7-for-7, 18 points).

John Wall perfectly summed up the Wizards’ defensive performance: “We know what our coverages are, but at times we don’t do them.”

Ok then.

Magic guard Evan Fournier gave a more likely explanation for his team’s offensive success: “Honestly I felt we played good offense but I think part of that was maybe the Wizards not being as aggressive and they were casual and maybe they took us lightly.”

(You know you’ve got a problem when even your opponents think you are coasting.)

Things didn’t change much in the second half. Washington was content to trade baskets for the entire third quarter and over half of the fourth. With 5:49 remaining in the game, Orlando led 111-110 and it felt as if the Wizards might add another notch on their sub .500 belt.

The close game provided yet another test for Washington’s inefficient clutch-time offense. Before the game, Scott Brooks was asked to address the team’s performance in the first half of the season and his first comment was, “We’re having trouble scoring the ball late games.”

Brooks suggested that his team’s late-game inefficiency could be a function of defensive attention:

“Teams are loading up on John and Brad, let’s face it, and they should. They’re forcing us to make the extra pass and I think we’ve taken some good shots but maybe we can look for some better shots.”

In other words, hero ball has not been working for the Wizards this season. Would Washington find another way to close out a game against Orlando?

Yes. Sort of.

Instead of playing hero ball, John Wall decided to just be the hero. In the manner of three minutes, Wall hit three jumpers, assisted on a Kelly Oubre, Jr. three-pointer and punctuated the decisive run with an alley-oop to Marcin Gortat.

When the smoke cleared, the Wizards outscored the Magic 11-2 for a 121-113 lead.

For one night, at least, Washington executed down the stretch. However, as Scott Brooks’ post-game opening remark indicated, all is not right with these Wizards. Their performance over the first 42 minutes of the game was not acceptable and would not be sufficient to beat most teams in the league. In other words, the second half of the Wizards’ season started exactly how the first half ended.

Brooks Tightens the Rotation

Scott Brooks is still trying to figure out his optimal rotation. Against the Utah Jazz, Brooks played Jodie Meeks extended minutes alongside John Wall in the hopes of getting Meeks into a rhythm. It did not work. Meeks missed all of his shots (four three-pointers) and had difficulty keeping up on defense.

Against the Magic, Brooks shortened the rotation to nine and Meeks was the odd man out, collecting his first DNP of the season. In his place, Brooks played Satoransky as the first shooting guard off the bench alongside John Wall in the first quarter.

After the game, Brooks was non-committal on his rotation going forward. He intimated that he might keep a nine-man rotation and suggested that Meeks “will have a good chance to play tomorrow,” which was far from an endorsement. If the Wizards move to a nine-man rotation, that means either Oubre, Mike Scott, Satoransky, Ian Mahinmi or Jodie Meeks is out of luck.

By process of elimination, it seems that Meeks will be the odd man out. Oubre – despite some head-scratching plays – has solidified himself as the first wing off the bench. Satoransky is the primary back-up point guard. Mahinmi gobbles up all reserve center minutes and Mike Scott has emerged as the best shooter off the bench.

You get the feeling that Brooks was auditioning Satoransky for the back-up shooting guard role and hoping he has chemistry with Wall in the back-court.

Kelly Oubre, Man of Mystery

Kelly Oubre remains one of the most polarizing players on the team. He has limitless potential and looks the part of a difference-making 3-and-D guy. However, he will also make some boneheaded plays that make you question his basketball IQ.

Against Utah, it was helping off Joe Ingles and allowing an uncontested go-ahead three-point shot. As bad as that was, his gaffe against the Magic was even more egregious.

Washington led 123-116 with 26 seconds remaining and Oubre had the ball in the corner. It appeared Orlando would not foul and the game would be over.

Oubre had other ideas.

Kelly shot a three-pointer with 12 seconds remaining on the shot clock. He missed and Orlando raced down court and hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to four points with 20 seconds remaining. Brooks called timeout and was livid.

Washington hung on for the victory, but these are the types of mistakes that will come back to haunt you against better opponents in more important games.

Adam Rubin on EmailAdam Rubin on Twitter
Adam Rubin
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Adam grew up in the D.C. area and has been a Washington Bullets fan for over 25 years. He will not refer to the franchise as anything other than the Bullets unless required to do so by Truth About It editorial standards. Adam spent many nights at the Capital Centre in the ‘90s where he witnessed such things as Michael Jordan’s “LaBradford Smith game,” the inexcusable under-usage of Gheorghe Muresan’s unstoppable post moves, and the basketball stylings of Ledell Eackles.