Game 4 was a John Wall takeover. The four-time All-Star of the Washington Wizards put his team on his back and carried them to an impressive 121-102 win over the Boston Celtics to even their Eastern Conference Semifinals series at 2-2. Wall finished with 27 points, 12 assists, and five steals. He extended his now NBA record of having at least 20 points and seven assists to 10 straight games in a single-playoff.
The numbers speak for themselves, but the details of how Wall forced his imprint on the game were more impressive. Wall missed his first nine shots from the field, a couple of open shots and a series of hard drives where he was forced by Boston’s collapsing defense to throw up off balanced shots. In the process, the Wizards turned to Bradley Beal, who too had a solid game with 29 points on 16 shots, but struggled on set plays, often times being forced into pass outs or missed contested shots.
The Wizards fell behind 30-20 early in the second quarter as a result. They were reeling and in danger of losing on their home court for the first this playoffs and digging themselves into a 3-1 hole. That’s when Wall, who was always aggressive, put the team on his back like a superstar is expected. He lit the Celtics up for 14 points in the second quarter, spearheading a 20-8 run that Washington tied at 48-48 at halftime.
Wall’s first points came on the free throw line with 6:22 remaining in the second quarter. He then went on a tear, torching the Celtics for 12 more points during the span, knocking down two open threes. He knifed through the Celtics defense and the highlight of his night was a magical backwards pass over Kelly Olynyk to Marcin Gortat for one of his 12 dimes.
— NBA (@NBA) May 8, 2017
Wall breathed life into the Wizards. His attitude of refusing to lose is contagious within the Wizards, who were playing without sixth man Kelly Oubre due his one-game suspension for charging and knocking Olynyk to the floor in Game 3.
Washington fed off the emotion of the game and its leader to a 26-0 run in the third quarter that busted open the game. Wall scored 13 in the quarter. He highlighted his impressive showing in the third by breaking down Marcus Smart with a series of crossover dribbles rolling past a screen all the way to the basket.
— Hoop District (@HoopDistrictDC) May 8, 2017
The sold out Verizon Center crowd serenaded him with “M-V-P” chants nearly every time he went to the line — he made all nine of his free throws. TNT analysts — Greg Anthony and Charles Barkley — took turns serenading the seven-year pro with calling him the “best point guard in the Eastern Conference” as well as the “second-best player in the East.”
Former Washington Wizard Caron Butler also jump into the coronation, echoing the same sentiments.
Second Best player in eastern conference! https://t.co/heE1GqAlUh
— Caron Butler (@realtuffjuice) May 8, 2017
A coronation is the best way to describe this case of maturation. After years of being ignored and not recognized, Wall much like he did in Games 3 and 4, has left his imprint on the NBA Playoffs. He capped a dominant first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks with a legacy-defining moment, scoring 42 points in the Game 6 closeout on the road. He scored the Wizards final 14 points.
Through the first four games against the Celtics he has been just as impressive, averaging 27.8 points, 12.3 assists, and 3.0 steals. In Game 2 while Isaiah Thomas got the deserving headlines for his 53-point performance on his deceased sister’s birthday, Wall quietly posted 40 points with 13 assists.
On Sunday Wall leaned on the confidence gained through the first nine games of the playoffs. He enforced his will on the Celtics. No matter who they put on him, Thomas, Smart, Crowder, he turned them around with his incredible first step. Boston threw out Al Horford and Olynyk on step-outs, Wall either left them in their tracks, pulled up for a surefire jumper, or used his X-ray vision to firing off a pass that left the crowd in awe. After a disastrous 0-for-9 start from the field, Wall powered the Wizards back shooting 8-of-16 the rest of the game.
For this postseason, he shoots a career-high 47.7 percent from the field – his previous high was 39.1 percent. He is much-improved from three point range, making 36.6 percent of his threes, topping his previous high of 21.9 percent.
The moment has finally come for the former Kentucky Wildcat. After being passed up in recognition for any type of point guard, Wall has his vindication. It’s no longer a debate is he one of the elite point guards in the NBA. The debate is now where to place him among the best players in the league. A career-year in the regular season, one that should land him on his first career All-NBA team, has been followed up by a playoff performance that only rivals All-time greats such as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, and others alike.
Wall insists he is finally healthy. Surgical procedures on both knees last May, ironically during the playoffs, has allowed him to play his style more freely. One year later, everything appears to be coming full circle. The spotlight is finally on him, the recognition is plastered on every national broadcast.
As LeBron James continues to show he is the King of the NBA, for now, there is no question by his play Wall is lurking behind hell-bent to get his time on the throne.