Wall Dominates and Dekker Shines as Wizards Upset the Lakers | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wall Dominates and Dekker Shines as Wizards Upset the Lakers

Updated: December 17, 2018

Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) dribbles the ball during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018, in Washington. Washington won 128-1110. (AP Photo/Al Drago)

John Wall saved his best game of the season for LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, helping the Wizards snap a four-game losing streak with a 128-110 victory. Wall scored a season-high 40 points and recorded 14 assists as he was able to control the tempo of the game from the very beginning.

This was a vintage John Wall performance, because his elite athleticism was on full display with drives to the basket against a Lakers defense that tried multiple defensive fronts to attempt to slow Wall down. In the third quarter, the Lakers unveiled a box-and-1 zone defense which relied on ball pressure at the top of the key from a single defender, while the other four players played zone. After the game, Wall was surprised that the Lakers resorted to that type of defense which he said he hadn’t seen since high school.

Wall made it a point of emphasis to be aggressive early and often:

“Just being aggressive, just trying to get downhill and attack the basket. I was kind of disappointed in how I played in Brooklyn [on Friday] – not being aggressive. When I’m aggressive, it makes it easier for us offensively – getting guys shots and getting myself into a rhythm.”

Wall’s attack-mode mindset not only afforded him easier shots, it also opened cutting lanes for his teammates to take advantage of the spacing on the floor.

The main recipient of all the attention drawn by Wall’s attacking the basket was newcomer Sam Dekker, who made his Wizards home debut to the tune of 20 points on 10-for-15 shooting from the field. All but one of his field goals came from within three feet of the basket and the Wisconsin product knew coming to D.C. meant he would have to find his offense off of Wall and Beal by being active and cutting to the basket. Wall praised Dekker for his ability to seamlessly come in and make an impact by cutting to the basket.

“He does a great job like Otto [Porter] does,” Wall said after the game. “Whenever I have the ball attacking and penetrating, he’s a great cutter. We were just talking about it. Whenever you have and opportunity to be aggressive, he’s a guy that’s cutting and trying to do the little things…those are the type of guys you need on your team.”

Dekker said that he honed his skills cutting to the basket during his tenure at Wisconsin under famed head coach Bo Ryan:

“Definitely college. In high school I was a guy that had the ball in my hands all game. I get to Wisconsin, and it doesn’t matter who you are, you have to learn how to play within a system. So I learned how to cut, read defenses, find an open bubble somewhere. Came to the NBA and found that works, especially playing with a guy like James Harden in Houston – he’s going to find you. Him and John are very similar in that way. John likes guys that cut [and] Brad likes guys that cut because they get so much attention. When you do that, you get a lot of easy buckets. I didn’t do anything special tonight, those guys set me up and I was able to make it work.”

The ability of Dekker to impact the game without having the ball in his hands is something that the Wizards have sorely needed this season and his willingness to accept that role did not go unnoticed by Coach Scott Brooks, who raved about his new wing option:

“I think that Jeff [Green] and Sam [Decker], they did a great job of playing off one and another. And Sam is a great cutter. That is what I am finding out. I didn’t really know everything about his game, I still don’t. I’m assuming that he is going to be able to shoot threes better than he did. But he’s got the ball, he cuts to the basket, he moves the ball, he plays hard, he brings energy, he plays with the proper respect for the game. That is what I love about him, he always seems to be prepared. He doesn’t have to turn the switch on, it’s on.”

A common gripe from Wizards stars this season has been the friction that comes from players not being able to play or understand their roles. It is still early, but so far Dekker understands what he has to do in order to be successful next to Wall and Beal.

Speaking of Beal, he scored 25 points and hit four 3-pointers to open up the floor for Wall to score or dish the basketball. While Beal was happy with the way the team competed offensively, he was even more satisfied with how the team was able to defend the Lakers, especially LeBron James, commenting afterwards about how they were active as a team at making sure LeBron was not able to go off on them:

“I think we did a good job of making it difficult on him, showing him a lot of bodies, active hands, making sure he wasn’t getting his own misses and putting them back quick and just making a difficult for him. He loves to pass just being able to do both, it’s all the extra effort on the defensive end, and I think we had it tonight.”

The Wizards were able to hold LeBron to just 13 points, albeit on the second night of a back-to-back for the Lakers. But considering his history of dominating performances in D.C., this containment shouldn’t be taken for granted.

The Wizards played well, and, for at least one night, allowed the fanbase to breathe a sigh of relief and get optimistic about what the new Wizards roster can accomplish in the remaining 52 games. Perhaps there is still time for them to be the team they (and owner Ted Leonsis) perceived themselves to be before the season started.


Troy Haliburton on Twitter
Troy Haliburton
Troy Haliburton is a native Washingtonian, and graduate of Gonzaga College High School and Morehouse College. Bylines on bylines on bylines.

Will write for food.