Guard continues strong March with best game of career
It threatened to be a mundane Monday night in late March for the lottery destined, more banged-up-than-usual Wizards.
Instead, it turned into the most spectacular performance of John Wall's career.
With nine players dressed and a quintet of his teammates sidelined with a quintet of ailments, Wall put the Wizards on his back, pouring in a career-high 47 points with eight assists in a 107-94 victory over the playoff-bound Memphis Grizzlies.
"I think he's showing you right now what he can be," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "Now it's just a matter of a consistency thing. He's been playing at a very high, consistent level here for the last couple weeks."
Wall is eligible for a contract extension this summer and recently told reporters he deserves the maximum, which only one player on a team can have at any one time.
Every point in the third-highest individual scoring game of the NBA season -- on 13-for-22 shooting from the field and 19-for-24 shooting at the line -- was necessary.
Wall said it was his way of paying back the Wizards (26-44) for having been ejected in a loss at Golden State two nights before and further proof of his comeback after missing the first 33 games of the season.
"I'm doing everything that I worked on this summer, doing it right now," Wall said. "It sucks that it had to be like the last month or two of the season to finally find my rhythm, but I'm just showing my hard work is paying off."
With Bradley Beal (ankle), A.J. Price (groin), Nene (knee), Martell Webster (abdominal strain) and Trevor Ariza (flu) all missing, Wall got going with a trio of midrange jump shots. He nearly made it four in a row when his runner off the glass bounced in and out. He also got the ball back, knocked down another shot from 15 feet and let his right hand hang in the air, having completed a personal 8-0 run to give the Wizards an early 12-4 lead.
"I was out there, but I was a fan," said Wizards center Emeka Okafor, who added 21 points and nine rebounds.
Wall finished off the half -- and a 10-2 run -- with a crossover to shed his defender and then an up-and-under scoop layup, giving him 26 points, his career best for a half. He's averaging 21.8 points on 52.3 percent shooting and 8.0 assists in March.
"A crazy two or three weeks, right?" said Chris Singleton (10 points, seven rebounds). "His shot completely changed, from that hitch in his shot to you don't even see it. I guess the work in the summer paid off."
Mike Conley (23 points, seven assists) kept Memphis (47-23) close in the third quarter, and Jerryd Bayless and Quincy Pondexter each had 14 points off the bench. But Wall's fadeaway at the end of the shot clock for a 94-83 lead with 4:09 remaining brought the Verizon Center crowd of 17,868 to its feet.
Wall banged home a 3-pointer over Bayless with 45.9 seconds remaining to finish his night. He turned down the chance to make it an even 50 points, instead encouraging the celebration for Washington's sixth straight win at home.