John Wall’s third quarter was a tour de force that made something clear: we are watching a master of his craft. In a 114-107 win, Wall steadily and methodically picked apart Atlanta’s defense, including one stretch where he scored or assisted on 19 of the Washington Wizards’ 20 points. It was a full, loaded display that blended excellence with flair and creativity, and it left anyone watching shaking their head.
Washington led most of the game, even though Atlanta never let them pull away. But the Hawks couldn’t find anyone that could bother Wall. He finished with 32 points and 14 assists on 12-of-24 shooting, breaking down Atlanta’s defense repeatedly with a feathery touch. Take this pass, for example.
Wall was hugely helped on Sunday by his finishers, namely Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris, who made his passes look great. But those passes were there over and over again, as Wall beat whomever was guarding him repeatedly. He set up a small business in the middle of the floor underneath the three-point line, where he could ship the ball to either side or down low with molecular precision.
In another season, if there weren’t historic MVP candidates who demanded our focus, we could have talked a lot more about Wall. He’s averaging career highs in points, assists, and field goal percentage, and his constant pushing of the ball and full-court blurring when he takes off makes Washington’s offense into a deadly transition attack all by himself. Here’s one.
Great point guards generally accomplish the same set of goals on the floor, each choosing their own preferred way to do it. Where Chris Paul is sneaky and exploitative, Russell Westbrook is soaring dynamics, and Stephen Curry thrives off causing panic, Wall’s trick is to treat the defense like they’re not even there. He’ll loft a touch pass over them to his big man, or glide by them effortlessly. Occasionally, he needs a bit of help — but his reaction here sums it all up, right?
Wall shrugged all the way to a Game 1 victory as Washington moves past Atlanta. That was a real treat. We’ll see what Atlanta comes back with in Game 2 — certainly, more attempts to get the ball out of Wall’s hands and make other players beat the Wizards. But Wall was so masterful on Sunday that if he plays anything like that, it probably won’t matter.