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Sports

May 14, 2014

No longer shooting like a brick ‘Wall’

Guard finds game, gives Wizards chance vs. Pacers

WASHINGTON — It’s unclear exactly when John Wall got his mojo back. Maybe it started on the plane ride to Indianapolis, when he watched movies and remained unusually quiet while thinking to himself: “If we lost this series, I’d put it all on my shoulders.”

Maybe it was before the game, when he confessed his frustration to Randy Wittman and was promptly admonished by the coach: “He was like, ‘I never want to hear you say that ever again, because I know how confident you are in yourself and I know how competitive you are.”’

Maybe it was when teammate Marcin Gortat, who had also been struggling in the series, pounded Wall on the chest after the starting lineups were announced and offered support “no matter what.”

One thing is clear: If the Washington Wizards manage the improbable and overcome a 3-1 series deficit against the Indiana Pacers, the turning point will be the moment their All-Star point guard stopped playing like a playoff novice.

“You can get down on yourself pretty easy,” Wall said.

Unable to hit a shot or come through in clutch late-game situations in the first four games, Wall was all over the stat sheet in Tuesday’s Game 5 rout: 27 points, five rebounds, five assists, five turnovers. He and the Wizards stayed alive, but only one-third of the would-be comeback is complete as they return home for tonight’s Game 6, trailing 3-2 in the series.

To get it done, they’ll need similar efforts from Wall, whom teammates have dubbed the Wizards’ “head of the snake.”

“For the first time in 102, 103 games that we had this season, I seen this guy that didn’t want to talk to anybody,” Gortat said. “He didn’t want to interact with anybody. He didn’t rap before the game. He didn’t laugh before the game. I guess it’s just a lot of things around basketball that has influence on him. ... But at the end of the day, I’m with him. End of the day, I’m going to jump in the fire behind this guy.”

Wall was 16 for 51 from the field, including 1 for 11 from 3-point range, in the first four games. The pressure of the postseason seemed to get the better of him when he unwisely rushed a shot or two and got stripped late in Game 2, then passed up a wide-open 3-pointer that would have tied Game 4.

 

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Tribune-Star/Bob PoynterLeader: Tom Jones is leading going into Sunday's final round of the Men's City Championship at Hulman Links on Sunday.

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