WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – With their backs up against the wall facing playoff elimination, John Wall and the Washington Wizards came to life with a dominant 102-79 Game 5 victory over the Pacers to live to fight another day.
Wall, who’d struggled mightily to find his shot — he’d been shooting just 32 percent from the field in the previous three games, all of which the Wizards lost — came out of the gate with renewed aggression and focus, which carried him to an 11-of-20 night from the field for a 27-point performance in the Wizards win.
Wall credits head coach Randy Wittman for delivering the words of inspiration which properly motivated him ahead of the game.
“Coach Witt told me at shootaround today, he wanted me to be extra aggressive,” Wall said after the game. “He said, ‘No matter if you have 20 turnovers or whatever, I just want you going out playing the way you’ve been playing most of the season for us, and giving it your all.’ And I think just being locked in on the defensive end the whole night kind of got my offense going, and not getting beat and stopping George Hill, because he’s been pretty hot throughout these playoffs.’
But there was more pre-game wisdom from Wittman, as Wall would later recount to reporters.
“I told him something that he probably would never want me to say,” Wall said. “I was like, ‘I’m frustrated. I don’t know how to get out of this slump. I don’t know what to do.’
“And he was like, ‘I never want to hear you say that ever again, because I know how confident you are in yourself and how competitive you are.’
“And to hear that from your coach, somebody that’s been here for four seasons and riding with me through the thick and thin of things, and me having his back, is pretty exciting. And he texted me today and said, ‘Just believe. Just believe in yourself John Wall.’ And I did.”
Although Wall admits he was reluctant to hear it at the time, he said teammate Marcin Gortat — who also had a banner night, scoring 31 points on 13-of-15 shooting with 16 rebounds — also approached him with a supportive gesture before the game.
“Right after the starting lineup he came to me, and most guys seen me locked in all day; they really wasn’t trying to say much to me, and Marc pounded me on my chest twice, and I’m like ‘I really don’t want to say nothing to you right now,’” Wall said.
“He was like ‘I’m with you no matter what. Through everything we’ve been through this season, and through this last game, I want you to go out fighting like you have for us all season.’ And I pounded him on the chest and went and took a seat. I really wasn’t saying much all night.”
In the tightest of spots, the Wizards solidarity proved to be their defining trait in pulling John Wall out from the defeatist mental abyss he was floundering in, and the key to unlocking another unlikely road victory against the top-seeded Pacers.
They live to fight another day.
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