For families across the state, Thanksgiving is a time to return home and show thanks.
So it was fitting then that John Wall, the Washington Wizards star point guard and a North Carolina native, was back in his home state the night before Thanksgiving to play the Charlotte Hornets. Wall starred at Word of God in Raleigh before playing one season collegiately at Kentucky.
Only after his stellar performance, the Hornets probably weren’t too thankful he was in town.
Wall finished Washington’s 129-124 overtime loss to the Hornets with a double-double, scoring 31 points and dropping 11 assists. It led the team in both categories, but still wasn’t enough to overcome the Hornets, who own a three-game winning streak.
“Oh, it’s great playing in front of my family and friends,” Wall said. “I couldn’t ask for nothing more.”
Except for a win, especially with those friends and family in attendance Wednesday. Now about that double-double – it didn’t come as easily for Wall as it probably should have.
He came into the game averaging 21.5 points and 9.1 assists, which suggests that a double-double is almost within reach on a regular basis.
And after one possession at the start of the game when he settled for a mid-range jumper (and a fadeaway at that), Wall went to work on putting up those numbers. Part of that came via his breakaway speed, which has been such an asset for him his first eight NBA seasons. It was especially on display one play early in the first half when he had the ball, stared down a waiting Kemba Walker, and then blew past his defender to the basket. There was nothing Walker could do.
As for the other half of that double-double, the assists, they were largely a byproduct of Wall’s offense. By commanding so much defensive attention, he often lofted passes from one side of the court to the other over the entire Hornets defense. It was less of him finding particularly tight passing lanes (although he did that, as well) than it was lobbing the ball over everyone else and finding open men.
But that strategy worked well in the first half, as Wall had eight points and eight assists at the break.
Getting the last two points from then was easy. Wall kept doing what he had been, bursting by defenders and almost running into cameramen with his speed.
The assists, though... those took a little while. Wall was still finding his teammates, only their shots weren’t dropping. Thus he took to the offensive, and ended up with that big point total.
“If I have it going or not, my job is to get these guys easy shots and try to make the game easier for them,” Wall said. “The shots we take, if we miss them the next 20 games, I’m still going to live with those guys making the right play.”
Eventually, though, with 6 minutes, 30 seconds left in the game, he did get that 10th assist, even though it didn’t close out the game. The Wizards were unable to give Wall enough help in his holiday return home, as the team let a nine-point lead in fourth quarter slip away, leading to overtime. There the Hornets overmatched the Wizards convincingly, more a result of their defensive shortcomings late than anything offensive.
So Wall did his part, but it wasn’t enough to propel his Wizards to a win.
“We had the game won, give them a lot of credit. They’re a team that never stops fighting ... and they just came and took the game from us,” Wall said. “We’ve just got to go enjoy Thanksgiving with our families and regroup and get back to it.”