John Wall scored a season-high 29 points Friday on 12-of-15 shooting in a 96-87 victory over the visiting New Orleans Hornets. The third-year Washington Wizards point guard sank a perfect 3-for-3 from beyond the three-point arc and dished 9 assists in the contest, doubling his made three-pointers on the season while falling a single assist short of a three-game double-double streak.
"John--I told, these last two games was as good as he's done in terms of keeping us in a pace that we have to play at for 48 minutes," said Wizards Head Coach Randy Wittman postgame. "I think he's seeing that. He got tired at the end of that third quarter where he kind of walked it up, but these last few games, I told him, 'Take these home and study these.'"
Wall sank all three of his three-pointers in a highly contested first half, in which Washington ended up in a dead heat at 50-even with New Orleans. The first three-pointer, an open go ahead, tied the game 23-all with with 2:34 left in the first quarter. The second came as a result of a double on center Emeka Okafor with 2:00 left in the second quarter. Okafor desperately needed an escape pass and Wall calmly sank the three-pointer despite a winding shot clock and a man in his face. Wall's third three came less than a minute later, wide open and from the corner. Despite Wall's first half success, however, Coach Wittman thinks there's still room to grow.
"He works every day, still a work in progress," said Wittman. "The shot is much more repetition--the same shot over and over again instead of taking different shots: a set shot, a jump shot, a fade-away. That's been the main thing. Every day he comes in here and I think it's just a repetition thing now. That's what he's got to continue to do."
While most of the media attention focused on Wall's three first half three-pointers, the former Kentucky Wildcat also demonstrated not only his improved mid-jumper, but his calling card fast break motor. He scored 12 of his 29 points in a pivotal third quarter stretch in which Washington pulled ahead for good with a 74-64 lead. Former Maryland Terrapin guard Greivis Vasquez scored 8 of his 18 points in the period, as he finished an assist shy of a double-double himself, but the Hornets couldn't stop the Wall-led Wizards.
"I just got into a good rhythm," said Wall, who has scored 20-plus points three-games straight. "The last couple games I've been feeling pretty good and able to knock down my shot. I think just shooting and it's going in. I think I make my first couple, you get a good rhythm and you get confidence. When you play with a lot of confidence you play at high level." But while Wall's Wizards are playing at a high level as of late, the Kentucky Wildcats, Wall teased, "shouldn't be invited to the NIT" this season.
"I ain't pumped by no brackets, you see we just lost by 20," said a fan-enthused Wall postgame, in response to Kentucky's 64-48 loss to Vanderbilt. "I'm not worried about the brackets anymore. I don't care about college basketball," teased Wall. "I see Daren happy over there 'cause Maryland won today. So he might go buy a new tie tonight," joked Wall, regarding most likely Washington's Manager of Communications, Daren Jenkins.
The locker room was full of bracket of noise and post-win celebration. Martell Webster, who scored 18 points in the win despite 4-for-11 from three-point shooting, was on full blast as always. He teased a fellow member of the media about not watching the TV show "Doug," a popular animated TV series of the 90s which aired on Nickelodeon, much like he teased Washington Wizards Examiner @DCWIZ about looking like Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe. Webster also joked around with the media asking us to interview the boot of Trevor Booker, who recorded a game-high 13 rebounds off the bench and limited reserve Ryan Anderson to 1-for-10 from three-point shooting.
"Chasing him was tough," said Booker, regarding Anderson, a .385 career shooter from deep. "He's such a good shooter. I just tried to have a hand up on him every time he shot the ball. He had a little streak where he got hot. It was tough, but we got the job done. It was a team effort." Booker, and Washington's defense, helped compound the fact that Hornets big Anthony Davis scored 12 of his 16 points in the first quarter. Foul trouble kept him out of most of the game and he didn't score again until the final two minutes of the fourth.
The Wizards will try and keep up their aggressive play tonight in a back-to-back as they host the Phoenix Suns (7:00 p.m. ET, CSN).