John Wall, Nick Young combine for 62 points, Wizards come up short in Miami
John Wall's first game against Miami's SuperFriends got off to an unusual start. On the opening tip, Heat center Erick Dampier knocked the ball about 47 feet over his head and it went out of bounds. After Rashard Lewis missed a three-pointer, Dwyane Wade grabbed a rebound and uncorked a full-length pass for LeBron James but the results were nothing like that brilliant, beautiful full-court alley-oop in Indiana last week.
The ball soared well past James, but Wall tried to chase it down, diving over the front row seats behind the basket -- around where rapper Lil Wayne watched the game. A few minutes later, JaVale McGee grabbed a rebound and tossed an outlet pass to Young. James tried to get a steal but Young saved it and hurdled the scorers' table before lunging into reporters in the second row.
It was an early show of hustle from Wall and Young, who kept the Wizards competitive as they tried to incorporate three newcomers -- Mike Bibby, Maurice Evans and Jordan Crawford -- and Andray Blatche was forced to sit with a right hip strain. The duo combined to score 62 points, only four fewer than Wade and James, who were able to score -- and close out the game.
Wade had 41 points, with 14 coming in the fourth quarter, and James had easily the quietest 25 points, nine rebounds and seven assists that I've ever seen from him. But both players spoke with Wall afterward, offering words of encouragement, after he scored 24 points and handed out 12 assists in a 121-113 defeat.
"It's good to play against other great players and get compliments, but you also want to come away with a win," Wall said. Wade "told me, it's been a tough season so far. Keep working hard and don't stop leading your team."
Wall didn't stop against the Heat, as he showed off his blazing speed, twice blowing past James for incredible layups. He has been playing at a high level in his past five games, averaging 21.2 points and 9.8 assists. He has had back-to-back games with at least 20 points and 10 assists for the first time this season.
Since returning from the all-star break in Los Angeles, Wall has been wearing Allen Iverson's signature Reeboks, the Question, but he said that he hasn't abandoned the ZigTechs. Reebok is designing some special ZigTechs in different colors and he's wearing the Iverson's in the interim. As for his inspired play of late, it's not the shoes.
"I just think, since all-star, I picked up the confidence in my play," Wall said. "Being more smarter, getting assists and scoring with a couple of teammates down. I learned by taking some time off."
Young also had a great battle with Wade, as both players took turns torching each other and hitting ridiculous shots. Wade, of course, hit the shots with the highest degree of difficulty, as he made them from almost every spot on the floor. He hit high floaters over McGee, three-pointers with a hand in his face and did a silly yo-yo dribble to juke newcomer Maurice Evans before hitting a jumper.
"It was nothing we did wrong in my opinion," Evans said of defending Wade. "A lot of times, hands were in his face and he's still finishing, finishing over McGee, he's pump-faking, holding in the air, still finishing. It was impressive, off a back-to-back that he came out with that much energy. He had such a great rhythm."
Josh Howard surely had flashbacks to Game 3 of the 2006 NBA Finals, when Wade single-handedly destroyed the Dallas Mavericks. Coach Flip Saunders said he felt like he was back coaching the Detroit Pistons against the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. "He shot 75 percent in a series against us," Saunders said of Wade. "You couldn't do much, because the shots he was taking and making were some circus shots."
Young tried to keep up, scoring 38 points, even when he had a scare in the third quarter when James appeared to pull the rug out from under him on a fastbreak layup. Young missed, but he landed awkwardly on his left foot and was in so much pain that he had to slip off his shoe before limping off. He had his foot re-taped and scored 11 more points, hitting back-to-back three pointers in the fourth quarter.
"I'm one of the top scorers on the team, and if I don't get going, it's hard, that's a lot of points gone," said Young, who surpassed his scoring total from the previous two games combined (31 points). "My teammates needed, so I just came back out [after the ankle injury]. I got to have their back every night."
It's funny how the Wizards opened the season by touting their talent in the backcourt, but after trading away Kirk Hinrich and Gilbert Arenas, it remains their strongest position with Young and Wall. Young plays with his mind focused on getting buckets and nothing more, but Young can be quite entertaining when he gets on a roll, as he did in Miami.
But the problem that the Wizards will have to overcome -- something that Cleveland realizes without James and Denver will realize without Carmelo Anthony -- is that superstars have a way of finishing, of making sure that their scoring outbursts come at a time when it matters most.
Good players can score; great players can close. It's not just about being a veteran; it's about knowing how to take over games and that comes with experience and opportunity. James and Wade have it, along with immense talent and game-seizing instincts. "They got great players who have been in more situations like that. They know how to put it away," Young said of the Heat.
Wall said he was satisfied with the effort of the Wizards after they failed to show up against Indiana and Philadelphia. And Young said the Wizards would have to keep competing like that, with a tough schedule that features games against Dallas on Saturday and the Chicago Bulls on Monday.
"We all came together tonight. I was one of them nights, we was gelling and I hope we continue this. We got playoff contenders coming up. If we keep battling like this, we can beat one of them teams."
| February 26, 2011; 1:37 AM ET
Categories: Flip Saunders, John Wall, Nick Young
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