The Wizards' Game 7 loss to the Boston Celtics in the second round of the playoffs back in May, the final defeat that ended the best season for the franchise since the 1970s, remains fresh on the minds of star point guard John Wall and head coach Scott Brooks, though months have passed. Wall has suggested several times this offseason that his fourth quarter fatigue against Boston is a point of motivation as he trains for this upcoming season.
Now that hindsight has set in, both Wall and Brooks looked back at Game 7 on the day Wall's new supermax contract was announced earlier this month. The prevailing takeaway was that yes, Wall was tired but they feel good about the effort they put forth.
"In the third quarter, like three minutes in, I asked coach for a sub and he was like 'no, you've gotta play.' I was like 'oh s---.' This is gonna be a long night for me," Wall said.
"Game 7 was not the way we wanted it to end, but I definitely went out swinging. I didn't go 0-for-0. I went 0-for-11. I shot the ball and played the game I wanted to play. At least I wasn't being passive. I was aggressive like I was the whole playoffs. I can deal with losing that way and use that as motivation for this season coming up."
Wall played 44 minutes that night and missed his final 11 shots, many of them jumpers from the outside with little lift from his legs. After the game, Celtics guard Marcus Smart said Walls "legs were gone" and that Boston's coaching staff was pointing it out all game.
Meanwhile, the Wizards' bench only scored five points and backup point guard Brandon Jennings played just five minutes. Brooks explained his decision to rely on Wall as heavily as he did.
"Going into that game, it was either you move on and you advance or you stay home. So, I was going into the game knowing he was going to play high minutes, probably not the 24 straight in the second half. But I look back at it with no regrets. I look back at it like we were right there with the No. 1 seed in the East on their court. I thought we had about four or five minutes of not-good basketball that probably cost us the game," Brooks said.
The Wizards will have to wait another eight months until the 2018 playoffs begin. They expect to be back there and hope to move past the second round for the first time since Wall was drafted in 2010. They are excited about the opportunity, knowing they were so close this spring.
"We're right there. We were in it in Game 7," Wall said. "We had Game 1 and Game 2 won, we just let those games slip. We know what it takes to win. We just gotta get over that hump."