This time of year isn't just about the postseason for John Wall, but when the Wizards eliminated the Toronto Raptors by sweeping them it carried extra special meaning for the point guard. Sunday was his late father's birthday. Had John Wall Sr. still been alive, he would've been 67.
In his second consecutive playoff appearance, Wall has gotten the Wizards out of the first round in a series that most predicted he'd lose. Wall, who averaged league-leading 12.5 assists, played like the All-Star.
His mood wasn't the same. While Wall played inspired and carried the energy and confidence that's typical on the court, behind the scenes he was noticeably somber in the days leading up to Game 4.
"I was more quiet. More to myself," Wall said of his 14 points and 10 assists in that 125-94 victory in Game 4 on Wednesday. "Those type of days I just be to myself. It's a special day for me so when you get a win, it makes it more exciting, more fun, more to smile about. I went out to eat with my family. To win on my dad's birthday was fun."
Wall Sr., who had been released from prison, died of liver cancer at 52 just a month later when his son was 8.
Wall has been here before in the postseason with managing his emotions. Last year, he got out to a shaky start even though they beat the Chicago Bulls in five games. Coach Randy Wittman sent him an inspirational text message to believe in himself before Game 5 of a second-round series vs. the Indiana Pacers that they'd lose in six games, but Wall played his best basketball amid admitted bouts of self-doubt.
No such inspiration appears to be needed now while the Wizards wait to find out their second-round opponent, either the Brooklyn Nets or Atlanta Hawks. The Wizards could be off as many as nine days if the Nets-Hawks go seven games in their series.
"Just going through it last year and knowing what it takes to win, knowing that I can dictate the game but not just scoring, doing other things," Wall said of his lower-key demeanor. "When I play defense first it gets my offense going -- a lot. That's what I tried to do a lot in that series and it paid off.
"Now we know what this team can be capable of. Now we got to stay playing the right way, stay in the right mind-set. Everybody is locked in. Everybody is focused. We're anxious to play."