Got 'em. (Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images)
After catching some late-game razzing from the crowd at the Palace at Auburn Hills on Monday night, Washington Wizards point guard John Wall decided not to get mad, but rather to get even ... and to play things cool in the process.
Late in the fourth quarter [...] a heckler behind the Wizards’ bench shouted, “Let Wall shoot. He can’t shoot it.”
John Wall walked away, lifting his jersey to wipe the sweat from his nose and acting as if he didn’t hear the man. He then turned around, spotted him and winked in his direction. A few minutes later, Wall made sure similar comments would not be made for the rest of the night.
Take it away, Mr. Wall:
After Wizards big man Marcin Gortat came up with a huge rejection of an attempted dunk by Pistons forward Josh Smith at the rim, Wall brought the ball up the floor with a four-point lead and just under 50 seconds remaining in the fourth. Wall sent his teammates aside and began winnowing down the clock, setting up for a late-in-the-possession isolation against Pistons defender Brandon Jennings.
With five seconds remaining on the shot clock, Wall crossed over from left to right, hesitated and then drove toward the right elbow. As Jennings slid over to prevent penetration into the paint, Wall pulled up, pumped and ducked under Jennings' outstretched arm before raising back up for a jumper that found the bottom of the net to give the Wizards a six-point lead with 27.4 seconds remaining.
You were saying, Mr. Lee?
A stunned Jennings stared at Wall as the shot went through the net — and Wall winked at Jennings, too, before beating his chest, hooting then jumping into his teammates along the bench.
“I heard that,” Wall said of the fan after scoring a game-high 29 points to reach at least 20 for the seventh consecutive game. “I love it. Everybody tells me I can’t shoot, but I’m just proving myself, just trying to keep winning basketball games.”
And win the Wizards did, holding on for a 106-99 victory that was Washington's fifth in the last six games, drawing Randy Wittman's team back to .500 at 14-14 and pushing the Wiz two games ahead of the Charlotte Bobcats into fifth place in the ever-depressing Eastern Conference playoff bracket. Wall scored nine of his 29 during a fourth quarter that saw the Wizards outscored the Pistons 28-12, as Detroit missed 12 of 15 field-goal attempts during a now-characteristic final-frame collapse.
While one might suggest the 2010 draft's top overall pick slow his roll a bit in the "proving himself with the jumper department," considering he's still shooting a well-below-average 43 percent from the field, Wall's work on his range has borne fruit over the past two seasons. After missing more than two-thirds of his midrange tries in each of his first two NBA seasons, Wall has shot 37.8 percent and 38 percent from midrange in Years 3 and 4 (to date), according to NBA.com's stat tool. The point guard's 31.1 percent mark from 3-point land doesn't exactly evoke comparisons to Reggie Miller, Ray Allen or Stephen Curry, but it does represent a career high for Wall, and an important step toward something approaching league-average consistency from long distance that, if continued, will only help space the floor for the Wizards offense and give Washington's secondary facilitators (off-guard Bradley Beal, swingman Martell Webster, reserve point men Garrett Temple and Eric Maynor) more room to orchestrate and probe opposing defenses.
And while Wall's accuracy from his right elbow "sweet spot" has dipped from a scorching 49.1 percent last season to 40.8 percent thus far this year, he's made measurable improvements from several other midrange areas, increasing his field-goal percentage from the left elbow by nearly 16 percent, from the top of the key by more than 14 percent, and from the right corner by just over 7 percent, according to NBA.com's shot charts. He's been especially strong from midrange during his seven-game 20-point-scoring streak, shooting a cool 51.1 percent (24 for 47) on shots between the paint and the 3-point arc, including 7 for 14 from the right elbow spot where he dotted Jennings to seal the victory on Monday.
With repetition comes success, and with a steady stream of converted jumpers comes the confidence to finish off opponents with a wink and a nod. The cameras didn't catch it in Detroit on Monday, but it might've looked a little something like this, via old pal @cjzero:
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- Washington Wizards
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- Brandon Jennings