A few weeks ago I fussed about how choosing a game MVP for the Wizards was one of the more challenging things I deal with in my life, considering how poorly the team played, both individually and as a group. This morning, I find myself fussing (a bit more pleasantly) about the same concept, but for the complete opposite reasons.
The Wizards have now stamped their fourth win in five games and did it in surprisingly convincing fashion as they put away the high-powered Denver Nuggets last night 112-108 behind six Wizards players in double figures.
Just about every Wizards player not named Chris Singleton and Jan Vesely contributed to the victory, but the stud of the night definitely goes to Jonathan Hildred Wall, Jr.
Wall was magnificent down the stretch of the final quarter, making several key plays to steer the Wiz past the pesky Nuggets. Of course, the highlight of the game was Wall’s game-sealing block of Ty Lawson’s lay-up attempt, which came with just under 5 seconds left on the clock. Lawson, who was defended by Martell Webster, seemed to have an advantage over Webster as he drove underneath him to the rim. But Wall had a different idea, leaving his man to leap in the air over Lawson and stuff his shot (see GIF image below, courtesy of BulletsForever.com)
But the block on Lawson wasn’t the only play that defined Wall’s night. He finished the game with 12 dimes to go along with his 14 points.
Nene: Nene played relatively well in his return to Denver. Although we’d like to see him attack the rim more often, Nene still established some attraction down low as he usually does. He filled up the stat sheet in just about every category, finishing with 7 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals and a blocked shot in 29 minutes of burn.
JaVale McGee: Ha. Remember when McGee, as a Wizard, tweeted about his commitment to giving us more as “JaVale” on the court, and less “Pierre”? Well, last night as a Nugget, we thankfully got a satisfying dose of Pierre in the short stint he was on the floor. There were several moments when McGee reminded us of why the Wizards so desperately shipped him out last season: losing his balance on a drive to the rim and sliding on his chest, swatting nothing but air in an erratically mistimed attempt to block a shot, awkwardly putting the ball up and blowing layups. Yeah, we definitely got the distasteful performance we used to dread last season, but relished last night.
As has been the case for the past few games now, the Wizards are playing at an elite pace offensively. Last night was no different. The Wizards shot the ball 51% from the field and of their 41 made baskets, all but 15 of them were assisted. Ball rotation, patience, making the extra pass, not settling for any shot-- these were the things that the Wizards had failed to do previously, but now it’s what is shaping this team offensively. Brad Beal continues his rookie surge, finishing with a team high 23 points. The thought of what Wall and Beal could become for this Washington backcourt is simply wondrous.
There were two separate factors that could have doomed the Wizards last night. Firstly, their atrocious transition defense in the first half. On paper, the Nuggets seemed dominant in the paint, but that was primarily due to the Nuggets getting easy baskets at the rim in transition. Denver went into the half with 13 fast break points, most of them off turnovers.
In the third quarter, the Nuggets were on pace to trash the Wizards as Ty Lawson went vintage Kobe, scoring 23 points in the period and steering the Nuggets to a 10 point lead at one point. Lawson was hitting everything from everywhere and we can put a lot of that blame on AJ Price, who simply seemed to throw in the towel in defending Lawson.
Brad Beal’s fall in the final minutes of the game. The dude literally bounced off the hardwood after being clotheslined by Kosta Koufas as he leaped towards the rim. Either God had placed an invisible air mattress underneath the rim or Beal must have fallen on a soft spot around his butt because the guy rolled over on his back for a few seconds after the fall, got up, shook it off, and nailed two free throws. No biggie.