Wizards

Morning tip: John Wall enters MVP territory in domination of Thunder

Wizards

Where does John Wall rank among point guards in the East is a popular topic of conversation. In a discussion with CSNmidatlantic.com last week, he didn't mince his words though he was respectful of Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas. 

"I feel like I'm the best point guard. There's a lot of great guards in the Eastern Conference. Kyrie does a great job doing what he does. Isaiah does what he does," said Wall, who had his 34th double-double Monday in a 120-98 wipeout of the Oklahoma City Thunder. "We're all different type of point guards. I'm just all-around, do-everything. I'm the best point guard -- 20 points, 10 assists almost five rebounds, two steals -- play defense against every point guard on the opposing team."

The latter point Wall made is key, given that he doesn't get hidden defensively the way Irving and Thomas do against their tougher assignments at the position. But Wall's final words will end up being the most significant after his 15 point, game-high 14 assists and five rebounds had his team ahead by as many as 34 points Monday.

"You win," Wall said, "you get recognized."

The Wizards (33-21) have won 19 of 20 games at Verizon Center. They've won nine of their last 10 games overall. They're in third in the conference, just 4 1/2 games behind the first-place Cleveland Cavaliers.

 

If they hold this form, Wall may need to broaden his scope. He not only would be more widely regarded as the best at his position in the East but in the MVP conversation.

[RELATED: Takeaways from Wizards' blowout win over Thunder]

Wall dominated his matchup with Russell Westbrook on Monday. Unlike the Nov. 30 matchup when Westbrook had 35 points (on 35 shots), 14 rebounds and 11 assists as Wall rounded himself into shape after offseason surgeries to both knees, Westbrook couldn't get to the rim to finish.

The help from Marcin Gortat can't be understated, but Wall did the job in ways that his point guard counterparts cannot against the triple-double machine. Westbrook was 5-for-19 shooting for justs 17 points, four rebounds and four assists. 

"The focus was to stop Westbrook," Wizards forward Markieff Morris said. "That's what we did tonight. We just tried to make it real hard for him, play physical. We had a great third quarter and that put the game away."

Leading 67-54 at halftime, the Thunder were outscored 34-19. Including the end of the second quarter, they had a drought of 24 consecutive misseds shots. Westbrook was 0-for-4 in the third. Wall was just 1-for-2 for three points there but he dished out seven of his assists that included a between-the-legs pass to Otto Porter in transition for a dunk. 

[RELATED: Thunder at a loss to explain 24 missed shots in a row against Wizards]

Wall has responded to every challenge of an elite point guard with a better performance. Thomas lit up the Wizards for 20 of his 38 points in the fourth quarter of Boston's win on Jan. 11. Wall, who was playing with a mangled right pinkie and a swollen left wrist in shooting 4-for-21, came back with 27 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in a blowout of the Celtics two weeks later in the "funeral" game. 

Irving went for 29 points in a Nov. 11 win over the Wizards, and even though the Cavs won in a thriller overtime game last week at Verizon Center, Wall contributed to Irving shooting just 8-for-24.

Wall already has achieved one of his goals to be an All-Star for the fourth time. He also wants to be All-NBA for the first time, too, feeling he was overlooked two seasons ago for the more popular Irving who was on the better team.

Irving still has the better team as the Cavs are defending champions, but a lot of that has to do with LeBron James. Wall has been the best player on a team with a starting five that has scored in double figures together an NBA-leading 21 times.  

The disrespect that Wall has felt after leading the Wizards to the conference semifinals in two of the last three years -- averaging a double-double with a broken left hand in a series with the Atlanta Hawks -- likely will come to an end if he can close this season as strongly as his team has been closing out victories. 

 

The 29 other GMs who failed to give him a single nod among the league's best passers? They'll remember his name because the national TV dates such as this game vs. Westbrook will continue to add up, too.

"That (doesn't) really matter to me," Wall said when asked about being in the MVP conversation. "If I get there, I get there. As long as we're winning,  playing the way we are, I'm happy with that part."

Make no mistake, Wall craves to be mentioned as the East's best point guard. To be included with Westbrook, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Curry on the bigger stage, however, is another level and he'll bring 14 other players with him. 

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