The Washington Wizards welcomed back their franchise point guard yesterday, then they took care of business and clinched a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Capital One arena erupted when John Wall was announced in the starting lineup, he’d missed the last 27 games and the fans and players were elated for his return. The Charlotte Hornets on the other hand, probably would of liked if he held off his return for another night. Washington handled Charlotte, dealing them a 107-93 loss, fueled by a big third quarter. The Wizards trailed by one at the half, but they started the second half on an 11-0 run and never looked back. Bradley Beal scored 14 of his 22 points in the period and Mike Scott added 11 points in that span as well. Otto Porter led Washington with a game high 26 points, he also pulled down 11 rebounds and shot 10-of-15 from the floor.
The Hornets were led by Dwight Howard, he had a double-double consisting of 22 points and 13 rebounds. They also got 17 points from rookie guard Malik Monk off the bench, but Charlotte goes as their franchise player goes and Kemba Walker was held to just seven points on the night. Walker has given the Wizards a fair share of problems over the years, but Washington did a great job of forcing the ball out of his hands. It was a balanced effort as the Wizards second unit was now complete with Satoransky returning to be the primary playmaker for that unit. There was some rust on Wall’s behalf, but he still finished the game with 15 points and 14 assists.
The Wizards have a back-to-back, so Wall is ruled out of tonight’s road game against the Chicago Bulls.
Wall’s Impact: In 33 minutes, John recorded a double-double and the Wizards looked complete despite him being a bit rusty. Bradley Beal looked like a kid in a candy store knowing that the way defenses had been loading up on him over the 27 game absence of Wall would come to an end. Wall’s presence garnered nearly all of the attention of the Charlotte defense as the last thing they wanted was to have him in the paint causing trouble. It also seemed that he made it a point to not come in and mess up the way his teammates had been playing in his time off the court, he routinely gave up the ball and cut or moved to the opposite side of the court to let them work, empowering them a bit. The Wizards did a good job of taking Kemba out of the game, Wall led the way as he was the primary defender and the two were on the court nearly the same amount of time. With Wall on the floor, the Wizards bigs seemed more comfortable hedging on screens knowing that Wall would be fighting through, there was a trust there that wasn’t seen in his absence. It looked as if Washington just played free knowing that their leader was back, it was only one game, but Wall’s impact was immediate and vital for a team that looked lost without their captain.
Turnovers: This was an issue in Wall’s absence and at times in the first half of the season, but the Wizards turned the ball over just 12 times against the Hornets. Charlotte, who is known for taking good care of the ball turned it over 17 times against Washington’s defense.
Second Unit: Wall’s return meant that Tomas Satoransky would return to his role on the second unit. He did an admirable job filling in for the time Wall was out, matching up with some of the league’s best point guards night after night. He seemed to have an added confidence in returning to the second unit to be their playmaker, he came in the game and immediately scored six points. That also made that unit a bit more stable and it showed as Mike Scott scored 15 points, he more so than any other member on the second unit struggled when Sato was moved to the starting lineup as the other guards behind him aren’t truly facilitators.
Defense: Hornets shot well in first half from both the floor and beyond the arc, 54% and 50% respectively. The Washington defense did a better job, starting in the third period of getting into offensive player’s space and making them uncomfortable. The bigs doing a better job of hedging played a big part in this as well. Charlotte shot a paltry 31% from he floor in he fourth, neither team shot it well, but they struggled more than Washington did. Obviously it would have been better if Washington started the game defensively with the same intensity as they did the third period, but they were solid on that end of the floor in the second half.
Otto: The Wizards other max player had a big outing against the Hornets. Wall’s return left him a bit more open as well and he made the most of it, scoring a game-high 26 points. It also felt as if Wall realized what Porter really can do during his absence, Porter had 15 shot attempts on the night. It felt as if Wall made a concerted effort to keep Porter involved which hasn’t always been the case in the past, it’d be Wall and Beal and Otto’s attempts sprinkled in. On the night the shot distribution amongst the three was fairly even, Wall took 17 shots and Beal took 14. It will be something to keep an eye on going forward, because opposing defenses will have to truly account for Porter with him getting a consistent amount of shots. Of those 15 attempts, Porter took 10 three pointers, knocking down six of them.