John Wall has long since established himself as one of the NBA’s most talented and electric playmakers. What makes the Washington Wizards’ All-Star point guard truly special, though, is the degree to which he marries flash with function, delivering dazzling moves in part because they’re more fun, and in part because they’re the best way to get from Point A to Point B.
Consider, if you will, Wall coming away with a loose ball in the middle of the first quarter of Wednesday’s meeting with the Miami Heat, tapping the ball to his right hand, then looking up and seeing only Heat center Hassan Whiteside standing between him and a straight line to the basket. Time was of the essence; Wall’s best chance to get loose and get a layup was to get past Whiteside as quickly as possible.
So instead of trying to maneuver around the crouching big man, he went straight through:
Wall dribbled the ball between Whiteside’s legs, then raced around him and collected it on the other side, a pitch-perfect soccer-style nutmeg that left Whiteside wondering what just happened and getting the Wizards out in transition. Hard runs tracking back by Miami guards Dion Waiters and Tyler Johnson helped influence Wall into missing the layup, but Otto Porter was right there behind him to follow the miss with a put-back dunk that gave the Wizards a six-point lead.
Just before halftime, Wall authored another slick-but-sound bit of playmaking to set up and bamboozle Justise Winslow:
Moving up the floor in delayed transition, Wall took a right-to-left crossover dribble between his legs as he crossed the 3-point arc, followed by a hard dribble to the left that made the Miami defender plant his foot and lean in that direction. With Winslow committed to Wall’s left hand, the former No. 1 overall pick swiftly and without missing a beat went behind his back to his right, putting his body between Winslow and the ball and lofting up a right-handed scoop before the shot-blocker Whiteside could rotate over. The layup fell softly through the net for a deuce, putting the Wiz up 61-49 heading into halftime.
Wall’s also capable of bringing style and sneer on the defensive end, too, as Tyler Johnson found out while trying to outrace Wall for a breakout layup that could’ve gotten the Heat within five points of Washington with two minutes left in the fourth quarter:
Wall delivered highlight fodder and timely plays alike, scoring nine points with one assist and that big block in the fourth quarter to help Washington come back after frittering away that first-half lead. Behind a strong closing kick from Wall and running buddy Bradley Beal, the Wizards held off the Heat for a 102-93 win.
Wall finished with a game-high 27 points on 9-for-21 shooting to go with six assists, four rebounds and two blocks. Beal added 26 points (13-for-14 at the free-throw line), seven rebounds and two steals for the Wizards, who have now won four straight to improve to 9-5, good for third place in the Eastern Conference.
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