Nov 5, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) gestures against the Indiana Pacers in the second quarter at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
John Wall didn’t have his best game defensively. Indiana’s starting point guard Donald Sloan (Who?) erupted for a career-high 31 points and seven assists as the injury-plagued Pacers took the Wizards to the final seconds of overtime.
But when it mattered most, Wall played like the face of the franchise.
After Paul Pierce took the final two shots in regulation, both misses, Randy Wittman turned to his No. 1 overall pick to seal the deal. Wall did just that. He scored seven points in the overtime period and propelled the Wizards past the Pacers, 96-94, on Wednesday night in the Verizon Center. The win improved Washington to 4-1 and dropped Indiana to 1-4.
Wednesday night’s performance was the fourth double-double in just five games thus far for Wall. He finished with 31 points and 10 assists, and nearly had a triple-double with six rebounds. He also had three steals and block.
But the third-string point guard from the other bench gave Wall all he could handle. Sloan, who started and played 43 minutes because of injuries to George Hill and Rodney Stuckey, made 10-of-21 field goals, including four three-pointers. He constantly got away from Wall off screens, as Wall opted to go around the screens most of the time instead of fighting through them.
However, it was Wall’s performance that proved to be the better of the back-and-forth match-up. Wall was a one-man fast-break, slicing through Indiana’s defense on several occasions.
He got his teammates involved more often than Sloan, as he found a red-hot Garrett Temple several times for threes, and found both Nene and Marcin Gortat down low for easy buckets on drive-and-dishes and give-and-go’s.
And in overtime, Wall scored six straight points in a minute span. Sloan? He made just two free throws in overtime; his only points of the period.
Although it was Wall who was hot all game and came through in the final minutes of the game, his fellow starters also put together strong performances.
Nov 5, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) celebrates with guard Garrett Temple (17) in overtime against the Indiana Pacers at Verizon Center. The Wizards won 96-94 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Temple, who has found an offensive rhythm over the past week, continued his recent ways. He followed up his 17-point performance last night when 16 points Wednesday on 6-of-14 shooting, including four three-pointers. He also added seven rebounds and four assists.
Down low, Gortat and Nene went to work on both ends of the floor. The duo scored 14 and 11 points each, respectively, and Gortat added 10 rebounds. They held Roy Hibbert and Luis Scola to eight points combined (two for Hibbert, six for Scola).
Pierce struggled mightily in his first full-game at home as a Wizard. He scored 11 points on an abysmal 3-of-15 shooting and missed all four of his three-point attempts, including the would-be game-winner at the end of regulation.
Washington’s bench was almost completely ineffective after its 41-point performance Tuesday night. On Wednesday, the bench combined for 16 points on a mere 29 percent shooting from the floor.
Indiana’s bench was also rather ineffective except for Chris Copeland, the team’s leading scorer, who scored 19.
Wednesday night’s game was a surprisingly close game for the duration of the contest. Without Hill, Stuckey, Paul George and David West, on paper Washington should have blown out Indiana.
Nov 5, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Donald Sloan (15) shoots the ball as Washington Wizards guard Garrett Temple (17) and Wizards center Marcin Gortat (4) look on in the first quarter at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
But Sloan & Co. took it to the Wizards.
The game featured a total of 10 lead changes and nine ties. Washington held a 12-point lead at one point, but the pesty Pacers refused to go away.
In overtime with Washington up one, Wall was fouled trying to run out the clock. After missing the first, he made the second, making it 96-94 with 12 seconds remaining.
After a timeout, Sloan drove in the paint and kicked the ball out to the three-point line for a relatively clean look. The only problem? He passed it to Hibbert. The result was a brick, sealing the win for Washington.
Wittman’s club will have a quick turnaround after squeaking by the lowly Pacers. After a day off on Thursday, the Wizards will take to the road for back-to-back road games in Toronto and against these same Pacers on Friday and Saturday.
Friday night’s game will be a true measuring stick for Washington, as Toronto is a strong contender in the East this season. The Raptors sit at 4-1 as well and at times had the Wizards’ number last season.
The Wizards will need a better defensive performance and better overall performance from their bench should they walk out of Toronto with a win.
Tip-off from Canada is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.