WASHINGTON — The Wizards have resorted to John Wall’s offense in late-game situations for years.
The No. 1 overall pick in 2010, Wall has long been the team’s designated offensive weapon. Despite being a passer first and a scorer second, Wall often turns into a shoot-first player in the final minutes of a close game, usually because there aren’t many other solid late-game scoring options in Washington.
Paul Pierce was the exception, as he was the best closer the Wizards have had since Gilbert Arenas. But this season has seen Wall up his game to previously unseen levels in that capacity.
Through Tuesday’s games, Wall is fourth in the NBA in fourth-quarter usage, with 39.1 percent, behind just Russell Westbrook, Isaiah Thomas and DeMarcus Cousins. He’s also 10th in fourth-quarter scoring (6.9 points) and fourth in assists (1.7). Wall is 14th in field goal attempts (4.6) in the fourth quarter, and of the 16 players who average 4.5 or more shots per fourth quarter, only Kemba Walker (51.9%) and LeBron James (51.4%) have a better field-goal percentage than the Wizards point guard.
Note: The above stats only apply to players who have been active for at least 25 fourth quarters. The below stats only apply to players who were active for at least 60 fourth quarters.
That represents a marked step up from his fourth-quarter stats a season ago, when Wall was ninth in usage (32.1%), eighth in points (5.7) and fourth in assists (1.9).
Wall has also improved his Net Rating (the point differential between the two teams when he is on the court) in fourth quarters from minus-1.4 last season to 10.9 this season, and it’s up to a whopping 18.4 in home games this season. His effective field-goal percentage and true shooting percentage are both up, from 47.9 percent and 55.0 percent to 52.9 percent and 60.2 percent, respectively.
His traditional plus/minus last season was plus-0.1 in fourth quarters. This season, it’s plus-1.3.
All of this bodes well for the Wizards, who have played more close games than any team in basketball so far this season. Per NBA.com, the Wizards have played 27 games in which the score was within five points at some point in the final five minutes — defined as a “clutch” situation. No other team has played more than 26. In those games, the Wizards are 15-12 and have outscored their opponents by 36 points.
In clutch situations, Wall is scoring 3.4 points per game, good for 12th among players with at least 15 appearances, and dishing 0.7 assists per game, seventh among those players.
Forget about the statistics for a moment and simply look at the anecdotal evidence, and it’s been an impressive season for Wall in late-game situations.
He had his first career game-winning shot on Tuesday night as part of a 26-point, 14-assist performance in a win over the Chicago Bulls.
Just three days earlier, Wall had a pair of layups in the final few minutes to help stave off the Minnesota Timberwolves. After Bradley Beal got hurt in a game against the Indiana Pacers late last month, Wall took over and scored 23 points in the second half while becoming the first Wizards player since Michael Jordan to put up a 35-point, 10-rebound game.
The Wizards are in a close game almost every time they take the court. Wall has been much better in close games than he ever has been. That’s an equation Washington should be pretty happy about.