— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) May 13, 2017
The moment was epic. It’s what superstars — scratch that, legends — are made of. John Wall held the Washington Wizards’ 2017 playoff lives in his hand. The final seconds of life ticking off the clock and when he squared, it was as if time stood still and all that was living was the rotating basketball that left his hands.
Just one second seemed like eternity but there was no doubt once the ball left his hands how it was going to end. The thump of the ball glancing the back rim as it went through the nets highlighted the moment. That sound was the cue for the sold out Verizon Center to leap and holler in hysteria.
You can call it big time. Call it clutch. Call it whatever you want. It was simply the greatest shot in Washington Wizards history — at least in a generation. Nearly four decades have passed since the Wizards franchise has been relevant. Gilbert Arenas tried but couldn’t. Juwan Howard and Chris Webber couldn’t either. Michael Jordan and Bernard King were nothing more than legends getting to bask in the sun before one last sunset.
It has been 38 years to be exact since the Washington NBA basketball team has been a legitimate contender. But the luck of a ping pong ball back May 18, 2010 has them back on the basketball map. A career-year in the regular season has turned into a career-defining postseason that led to a career-defining moment.
His first half struggles became a distance memory as the ball rotated through the nets. Washington gets to live another day, fight another battle, as the legend of John Wall continues to grow.
Wall squared up and drained a deep three with 3.5 seconds remaining on the clock to lift the Wizards to a 92-91 win in Game 6 over the Boston Celtics. By virtue of Wall’s heroics, there will be a Game 7 on Monday night in Boston to see which team will advance to play the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Washington leaned on its bread and butter set. Otto Porter was set to inbound the ball. The action was on the weak side, as Bradley Beal, who finished with a game-high 33 points, tried to get free off a Marcin Gortat screen. As Porter faced a near-five seconds violation, Wall recognized the situation and called for the ball got the spacing he needed as Avery Bradley backed off in fear of Wall’s blazing drive, and the four-time NBA All-Star squared up with the rim and knocked down the biggest shot in Washington Wizards history.
Verizon Center erupted in euphoria, the city has never felt before.
Wall’s deep pull-up jumper gives Wizards fans and the city their moment. No more talks of Michael Jordan’s Game 6 shot over Byron Russell, no more piggybacking off LeBron’s Game 6 against Boston, Magic’s 42 in Game 6, Isiah Thomas’ 25 points in one quarter of the Finals on one leg. Wall now has his moment, the city has its moment. The Wizards have its moment.
Wall battled through to bad start
Wall started the game shooting awful from the field. He was 1-of-9 from the field with three points in the first half. He struggled to find his shot, mostly thanks to the Celtics collapsing defense on him as he tried to drive and initiate the flow of the offense.
But all of that changed in the third quarter. In shades of his struggles in Game 4, Wall picked up the pace after a sluggish start. He would miss his first two shots from the field in the third quarter, giving him a 1-of-11 start. But from there he caught fire, making his next three shots.
He scored on a cut through the middle of the lane off a feed from Beal. He then knocked down a mid-range jumper off a feed from Morris. After Beal missed a three and Gortat was able to grab the offensive board, Wall called for the ball and knocked down a three. Just like that the superstar had made three straight, and added a quick seven points to his total.
He would make eight of his last 14 shots of the game, scoring 23 of his 26 points in the second half. He along with his tag team partner, Beal, put the Wizards on his back. He carried his team and his city on his back to the finish line.
— ESPN (@espn) May 13, 2017
Wizards rise above misfortunes
Misfortunes turned into gold. Washington grew stale after fighting to an 82-82 tie in the fourth quarter. Boston’s Isaiah Thomas scored a quick five points putting Washington down 87-82. Wall drove to the lane but was met by a standing Marcus Smart. Initially a blocking foul was called on Smart, but after an official review — charge/block contact fouls are reviewable under two minutes in the fourth quarter — Smart got set outside of the restricted area, and with contact made the official reversed the call to a charge on Wall.
On the play Wall crashed into the floor, hurting his hand in the process. As the replay was being reviewed he was be attended to by trainers.
The sight with 1:24 remaining in their playoff lives, it appeared the Wizards were on the verge of being done. But misfortunes turned into gold.
The Wizards trapped Thomas at the top forcing a bad pass into a Gortat steal. Beal saw his opportunity on the break and pulled up hitting his first three of the game after missing his first seven attempts. Then Wall matched one-on-one with Thomas blocked the Celtics guard’s three point attempt. Wall raced down the court to be fouled by Thomas, setting up a big moment needing a pair of free throws to tie the game.
Wall made both, tying the game at 87-87 with 41 seconds remaining. However, Boston kept at it. Off a timeout, Celtics guard Avery Bradley slipped off a screen for a jumper from the corner to give Boston back the lead at 89-87 with 28 seconds remaining. Beal responded with a tough drive to the lane to tie the game at 89-89.
The back-and-forth continued. Boston ran a screen action off the elbow with Thomas and big man Al Horford. Gortat sealed the pick perfectly on Thomas. However, Wall trailed Thomas leaving Horford open on the side for a jumper he banked off the backboard. So Wizards, they were down 91-89 with just under seven seconds remaining. Reality started to set in, this was not to be the Wizards’ night or season.
Washington called timeout. Wizards head coach Scott Brooks and his staff wanted to put the ball in Beal’s hand. He was hot, he was the guy who kept the Wizards afloat as they struggled for much of three quarters to get its offense going. Unfortunately, Boston understood the situation. Smart fought through a Gortat screen, forcing Beal to curl out of Porter’s sight for a clean pass.
Gortat struggled to hold his ground not to get caught with a moving screen. As the three jockeyed for position, timing was running out. Porter was on the verge of a five-second violation. That’s where Wall understood the moment rushed to the ball to get the ball from Porter.
Bradley couldn’t open up and let Wall drive to the lane for an easy layup. So he set his feet to close any thought of a drive. Wall signaled for Gortat not to come out for a screen to help. Instead, Wall saw the opening to pull the trigger on a deep three. He let it fire with confidence with Bradley stepping through on the late reaction.
Even with 3.5 seconds remaining, it was clutch, it was big time, and it was the greatest shot in Wizards history. Sorry Paul Pierce, “I called game shot” is no longer needed for Wizards allure.
Victory was only a formality. And after desperation three from Thomas skipped off the side of the rim, it was official, the Wizards were headed to their first Game 7 since the last time the franchise was relevant in 1979.
— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) May 13, 2017
Wall stood on the scorer’s table basking in the glory and the allure of being the centerpiece of the biggest moment in the franchise history since the team changed its name from the Bullets to the Wizards, since the Wizards were relevant for the first time in nearly four decades.