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John Wall may have played the best game for a Wizards player in generations

John Wall may have played the best game for a Wizards player in generations

Like many Washingtonians, I'm not old enough to remember the 1970s Bullets, the era that brought the franchise's lone world championship, four total NBA Finals appearances and a decades-long outbreak of Bullets Fever.

To me, Phil Chenier is and always has been a broadcaster, Wes Unseld was a general manager who drafted God Shammgod and deep playoff runs are something other teams do. True playoff success, as other cities know it in the NBA, has been somewhat of a foreign concept. For an entire generation of D.C.-area natives, like me, positive playoff moments involving the Wizards have been few and far between.

So, what John Wall did on Friday night in Game 6 against the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night was in some ways a brand new experience. A Wizards player putting in the playoff performance of his life in a decisive game to lift his team to a series win, that's unusual. When his team needed him most, when basically the rest of the starting lineup got into foul trouble and the Hawks were imposing their will, Wall thoroughly took over. He almost singlehandedly ended Atlanta's season, smiled and waved bye-bye to the Atlanta crowd as he did it.

Wall scored 19 points in the fourth quarter and blocked the heck out of a Dennis Schroder fastbreak layup. He stared down Falcons superstar Julio Jones, rappers Gucci Mane and Quavo, matched their swagger and then some.

All of that, I had never seen.

Wall, in fact, played the best game I have ever witnessed from a Wizards or Bullets player in my life. I'm 29 years old, so we're not talking too deep of a memory bank. Still, what Wall did on Friday night was arguably the best performance of a Wizards or Bullets player in at least a generation.

The numbers back it up. Wall's 42 points were the third-most for one playoff game in franchise history. Elvin Hayes set the record of 46 points back in 1975. Gilbert Arenas hit 44 points in May of 2006, but it came in a loss.

[RELATED: Wall, Beal show out for Wizards in Game 6]

Arenas scored more points than Wall that day and Wall's seven turnovers certainly hurt his cause. But Wall also had eight assists, four steals and two blocks. The last player to have 42 points or more, plus those numbers in a playoff game was Michael Jordan in 1990. Jordan, the greatest player of all time, only did it once in his career. No one else since at least 1983-84, when Basketball Reference's assists and steals numbers date back, has accomplished the feat. Wall also shot 64 percent.

There have been many great games played by Bullets and Wizards players in recent decades, of course. Since the year 2000, a Wizards player has hit 40 points 41 times. Jordan did it seven times, Arenas did it a whopping 24 times in a three-year span, Wall has done it twice before and Bradley Beal accomplished the feat three times this season alone.

Five times since 2000 has a Wizards player dropped 50 points or more. Jordan did it once, Arenas three times and Wall once himself, back in December. Arenas once scored 60 points against the Lakers, then 54 against the Suns just five days later. Both he and Jordan also had numerous buzzer-beaters.

But all of those were in the regular season.

There have been a handful of great playoff performances by Wizards players in recent memory. Since 2005 there have been six games of 35 points or more by Wizards in the playoffs. But nobody has done quite what Wall did. Not Arenas, not Antawn Jamison, not Chris Webber, not anyone in a long, long time.

Wall dropping 42 points, including a 19-point fourth quarter takeover, was special. Like the Wizards winning their division or getting more than 46 wins (49, to be exact) this season, I had never seen anything like it before.

Yet, something tells me that was just the beginning for Wall, that his best is still to come.

[RELATED: Keys to look for in Wizards-Celtics semifinal series]

 

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Ty Lawson is playing a bigger role than anyone could have predicted for Wizards vs. Raptors

Ty Lawson is playing a bigger role than anyone could have predicted for Wizards vs. Raptors

The biggest surprise of the Wizards-Raptors series through two games, at least from Washington's perspective, has to be the fact Ty Lawson has very quickly earned a prominent role in Scott Brooks' playoff rotation.

Lawson, 30, was signed the day after the regular season and after he played much of 2017-18 in China with the Shandong Golden Stars. He did not appear in one game with the Wizards or any other NBA team during the regular season, yet he was the first point guard off the bench in Game 2.

When John Wall picked up two quick fouls, it was Lawson who got the nod, not Tomas Satoransky. Lawson ended up playing 31 minutes, more than Satoransky and fellow backup point guard Tim Frazier have earned combined through two games.

Though the Wizards had three point guards on their bench behind Wall before Lawson even signed, he has apparently surpassed them all on the depth chart. Satoransky is the most surprising, given he played quite well during the regular season.

Satoransky averaged 7.2 points, 3.9 assists and shot a team-best 46.5 percent from three. He had the highest offensive rating (124) on the team.

Lawson, though, played quite well in Game 2. He put up 14 points, eight assists and three rebounds while shooting 4-for-5 from three.

Lawson outscored four of the Wizards' five starters. Not bad for his first game.

"He did everything I knew he was capable of doing," Brooks said. "I’ve seen him do it for many, many years. He’s tough, he’s a competitor. He competes and pushes the pace. He plays defense. I liked the spirit."

Lawson provided a noticeable spark. He is still quick and aggressive with the ball, not afraid to look for his own shot, and played physical defense against the Raptors. Lawson ended the night plus-8 in the box score in a game the Wizards lost by 11.

"It’s good to see him get into a game and be able to produce for us," guard Bradley Beal said.

Given the Wizards lost Game 2 and face an 0-2 deficit in their series, it is likely that Brooks continues to alter his rotation in the coming games. He could go back to Satoransky more often, knowing he had some solid games against Toronto in the regular season, including on March 2 when he had 10 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

Satoransky could see more time at shooting guard or small forward and could play alongside Lawson. That might be Satoransky's best bet because Lawson did nothing in Game 2 to squander the opportunity.

For a team whose effort has been questioned by their head coach, Lawson's energy and urgency was noteworthy. He brought the edge of a guy playing for his NBA career, knowing a good playoff series could earn him a contract next season. 

Clearly, the way Lawson played was refreshing for Brooks given how long he kept him out on the floor. He may have come out of nowhere, but it looks like Lawson is here to stay.

MORE ON THE WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

WIZARDS NEED BEAL TO BE MUCH BETTER TO WIN

BROOKS MAY CHANGE STARTING LINEUP FOR GAME 3

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Beal and Porter need to step up and so does the defense

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Beal and Porter need to step up and so does the defense

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chase Hughes and Chris Miller broke down the Wizards' 0-2 deficit and how Bradley Beal and Otto Porter need to play better.

They went into the potential change in the starting lineup, why the Wizards are doing so poorly on defense and the historical odds the Wizards are now up against.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!