Game of the Night: John Wall vs. Evan Turner turns out to be about Andray Blatche

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We tuned in to see John Wall matched up on Evan Turner — and we got a little of that late in the game.

But it ended up being about a lot more. It ended up being about Andray Blatche finding the guy from the end of last season. It ended up being about whether or not to foul when up three late. It ended up being one of the more entertaining games of the young season — Wizards won 116-115 in overtime.

It even started out entertaining, with Wall doing the dougie out to the other starters before the game. Washington is all about Wall.

Then for the first six minutes of the rookie’s home opener, Jrue Holiday took Wall to school. On one of the first possessions, Holiday just stepped behind a screen and knocked down a two. Two possessions later he was coming off the baseline out to the wing, felt Wall overplaying and denying the pass so Holiday went backdoor and just lost him and got a dunk. On a Wizards possession a couple plays later Wall gets the handoff coming off a wing screen and tries to drive but Holiday catches him and ties him up. At least Wall won the tip. A little bit later, Holiday with a long two over Wall.

Wall is going to be very good, but nerves and another good point guard gave him a wake up call.

Then Wall settled down Lou Williams came in for Holiday. Wall was too quick, too strong for Williams and he started getting in deep, getting good looks or getting fouled. Wall ended up with 29 points and 13 rebounds. Meanwhile Wall just seemed to go off: Half of Wall’s 16 shots came at the rim (dunks and layups) and he was 7-8 at the rim, 2-8 on jump shots (both deep twos). Wall also was fouled a lot and got to the line 14 times. He was aggressive at both ends, getting nine steals.

Evan Turner, the No. 2 pick of the Sixers, doesn’t bring the dynamic play of Wall, but you can see him starting to find his way through and around the NBA game and the Sixers play.

Well, you didn’t see that in the first half. He really just floated through the half, playing but not really impacting the game at all. But in the second half he started to find his spots, he got to play a little point guard late, he seemed able to assert himself more that way. He got all his points in the midrange — he cannot explode to the rim like Wall.

While Wall was a star, tonight saw the return of the Andray Blatche from the end of last season that carried the Wizards — because he stopped settling and started just attacking the rim. Something he said he would do before the game — 7 of his 17 shots came at the rim. More than that he drew contact and got to the line for 14 free throws.

Nowhere was that aggression more evident than the game-winning basket in overtime, where Blatche set a down screen for Al Thornton, then popped to 12 feet, got the pass, jab stepped then went by Elton Brand like he was a statue to get to the rim. Brand had to foul, Blatche drained the free throws. Blatche has so many skills — he’s not always efficient with them but he has the skills — and when he just goes at it and attacks those skills are hard to stop.

The one other interesting thing was something Sebastian Pruiti wrote about at NBA Playbook — the Sixers fouling at the end of regulation up three. Pruiti and I disagree about whether or not to foul in that situation. I think you do it at the six second mark or less. But I agree with Pruiti on this — the first last foul, on Wall was too early and in a bad spot. They fouled Wall while he was dribbling early and not in a dangerous spot on the floor. The second time — Cartier Martin’s tying shot, they did not foul when a quick foul was what they needed.

The Sixers did not execute the late fouling strategy well, extended the game and gave the opposing team a chance. And lost.

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.