John Wall Has Taken Things Up a Notch During the Playoffs
After a blistering start in their Game 1 matchup against the Boston Celtics, the Washington Wizards came crashing back down to reality. Basketball is a game of runs, though, so big leads like the one the Wiz had on Sunday aren't always a sure thing in the playoffs. Sometimes, this kind of thing is bound to happen.
Know what else happens? Stars become superstars, and that's exactly what we are witnessing with John Wall.
Making the Leap
When a player is able to put it all together and watch their performance go from good to great or from star to superstar, it's typically termed that they're "making the leap" to that next level.
Wall experienced that leap during Washington's first-round matchup with the Atlanta Hawks. Head coach Scott Brooks unleashed his Lamborghini trapped in a human body at full throttle all over Atlanta, and they had no chance.
The point guard saw his points per game average rise from 23.1 from the regular season to 29.5 in the matchup, while his field goal percentage jumped to 52.5% from 45.1% -- even though this is a time when defenses normally become tougher to deal with. Oh, and after shooting just 32.7% from three during the regular season, he quietly shot 47.4% from that area of the floor.
His numbers across the board were marvelous, which also included 10.3 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.7 steals. Just by watching Wall, though, you got the sense that he was in charge. Dennis Schroder experienced this more than anyone.
Wall finished off Atlanta with a brilliant 42-point, 8-assist, 4-steal, 2-block masterpiece, sending fans courtside into a frenzy when he let the world know he's arrived.
Rough Start to Round 2
That tune changed a bit against the Boston Celtics on Sunday afternoon.
While going on a 16-0 run in the opening minutes, Wall made defenders look silly in the open court, and it's something he's done pretty consistently.
Per NBA.com, Wall is averaging 6.1 transition opportunities per game (most of any player still alive in the playoffs), while scoring 6.9 points per game in transition (only behind Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant). He's also scoring 1.12 points per possession on 66.7% shooting (higher than LeBron James and Curry).
But then the Celtics found their footing and Markieff Morris went down with what looked like a bad ankle sprain. Physical and crafty backcourt defense from Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart neutralized Wall from the second quarter through the end of the game, forcing him to commit eight turnovers. They were able to consistently knock balls loose during drives and force him into making bad passes while challenging him on every pull up and dribble drive.
Despite such an ugly loss, Wall still finished with 20 points and 16 assists, which is a playoff career high. Even when things go sideways like they did in Game 1, elite players find a way to make an impact anyway, which is exactly what Washington's point guard did.
He's been knocking on the door to superstardom all season, and has finally kicked it down during the playoffs. Although the Wizards are in a 1-0 hole in this series, they shouldn't fret just yet because they have the best player in this matchup, who's able to change the course of a game in an instant.