The first national TV game for the Wizards couldn't have come at a better time for John Wall, the same night he learned that he wouldn't be a starter in the Feb. 19 All-Star Game in New Orleans.
So he showed out vs. the New York Knicks -- the same way he did on Christmas Day in a national game en route to his first selection as a starter -- by not just posting a team-high 29 points and game-high 13 assists but sealing the 113-110 win with key plays down the stretch.
"Hopefully, I’m a reserve," said Wall, who finished sixth among East guards despite having the best statistical season of his career and getting his team to 23-19. "There’s a lot of great guards that’s been playing well in the East this year.”
It's no surprise that the two starters, Kyrie Irving (Cavs) and DeMar DeRozan (Raptors), come from the two best teams in the conference.
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Wall made 11 of 21 shots, grabbed five rebounds and had three steals in addition Thursday. It was his 25th double-double for the only East guard to average one (23.1 points, 10.3 assists, 4.5 rebounds, 2.3 steals).
With the Knicks taking a 110-109 lead, Wall scored the next four points. The last two came on a rebound off a missed shot and transition basket that was a blur that knocked the air out of Madison Square Garden.
The Wizards play well there. When Wall made that Christmas visit, the only time he's played in a showcase game on the holiday, he had 24 points, 11 assists and six rebounds.
After that win, the Wizards were 20-8. They had such a slow start to this season at 2-8 and gained such little attention beyond D.C., not many noticed the progression with Wall as he recovered from surgeries to both knees May 5.
Among the guards who have been selected, and the others hoping to be reserves such as Kyle Lowry and Isaiah Thomas, he's the best defensively when he's playing at his best. As he has been better on that end, the Wizards have won seven of eight games and own a 13-game home win streak that's the longest in the NBA.
NBA coaches have voted him twice as a reserve. They'll have the chance to do it again when the full teams are announced next Thursday.
"We found a way to get back into the mix of things," Wall said. "We didn't get off to a great start to the season. Hopefully I'll be able to join those guys next week."