Three years ago Tuesday, John Wall drained a last-second shot in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Boston Celtics to give Washington the win.
The bucket was a big one for many reasons. Not only was it clutch, but it helped the Wizards stay alive in the series and force a Game 7. It also had the added benefit of coming against the Celtics, a team that the Wizards had some bad-blood with at the time.
The mutual hatred both teams had for each other in 2017 was not created just from the playoff series alone, but rather from a saga of events that continuously fueled the fire. During a Facebook Live with Jason Smith, another member of the 2017 Washington team, Wall explained what started the rivalry in the first place.
Sparks initially began to fly on January 11, 2017, during a regular-season matchup between the two. In a game that the Wizards would lose 117-108, Wall and Celtics forward Jae Crowder chirped each other throughout the game. Wall mentioned that chirping from Crowder was nothing new to him, as he had even heard it in the offseason. Following the game, Crowder continued to talk when the teams were shaking hands, and Wall answered right back with words of his own.
The tension may have fizzled out right then and there if it wasn't for what Crowder did next.
“Then he touches my nose. I’m like, 'no, nobody is about to touch my nose,'" Wall said of the altercation. "So I gave him a little smack and he was like, 'we can meet in the back.'"
"So I went to the back like, okay, there’s nothing but curtains stopping us back here.”
Wall and Crowder would meet near the locker rooms to continue their quarrel, and both teams soon got involved as players from both sides got involved in the situation. Though nothing more transpired on that night, Wall knew it signified the beginning of the 'beef' with Boston.
“From that point forward I was like, you know what, this is the rivalry.”
Just a couple of weeks later, Wall and the Wizards continued the saga by opting to wear all-black outfits to a home game against the Celtics. Washington claimed it was because they were attending Boston's 'funeral' in what was the team's last regular-season meeting in Washington. The Wizards won 123-108, but it wouldn't be the last of the antics between the two.
After taking down the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the playoffs, Wall and the Wizards knew that a date with the Celtics was up next. A back-and-forth series, Washington entered Game 6 on the brink of elimination at the hands of their rival. To up the stakes, Boston decided to replicate what the Wizards did in the regular season, wearing all black to the crucial playoff game.
That gesture didn't work out for the Celtics, and John Wall had everything to do with it, nailing the now-famous shot. Yet, it was a moment that was not planned to happen as it did.
With the Wizards trailing in the final few seconds, Scott Brooks drew up his usual last-second play which focused on getting Bradley Beal open for the shot. But as the clock neared the end of the game, Wall noticed the play wasn't working. So, he improvised.
“I’m in the corner waiting, and I just see that he’s not getting open. It’s like 3.5, 4 seconds, I just run and get the ball from Otto [Porter], tip-toeing basically on the sideline," Wall described. ‘I’m just looking like, it’s either win or go home. I see Avery Bradley backing up. I know he’s a great on-ball defender, he’s been tough the whole series. It’s a shot I work on everyday and I just took a hesitation three.”
The reason Wall hesitated is that he said he noticed Beal getting open at the last second. But with no time to pass him the ball, he had to take the shot. It worked out pretty well.
“So I take the shot, and it goes in," Wall said.
Though the Celtics would win the series in Game 7, the shot was the biggest of Wall's life. Coming against a team he was not fond of only made it that much sweeter.
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