Washington Wizards star John Wall said earlier this week he’d play in Game 2 in the team’s series against the Atlanta Hawks despite a super swollen left hand, an injury he suffered in Game 1 after an awkward fall. While no one should expect anything less from a star player in the playoffs than doing whatever it takes to play hurt, Wall unfortunately couldn’t keep his promise and ended up sitting out.
It was disheartening for Wizards fans to see the team’s top player out of the lineup, but on Wednesday it became clear as to why he couldn’t push through the pain, simply because five non-displaced fractures in anyone’s hand would likely leave them resting. That’s the news that has Wall seeking even more medical opinions prior to Game 3 on Saturday.
It’s also the news that means Ramon Sessions is set to be thrust into a starting role for the foreseeable future barring a surprise return by Wall, and it’s what also has the Wizards firmly behind the eight ball.
Unfortunately for Wizards players and fans, it likely spells the end of the team’s season and a slim to none chance the club will get a shot at appearing in the Eastern Conference Finals later this month. The reality of the situation is that Wall brings an incredible burst of speed and playmaking ability to the floor that few others in the league possess, and with the Atlanta Hawks owning a speedy All-Star point guard of their own in Jeff Teague, it’ll be difficult if not impossible to stop arguably the top team in the Eastern Conference.
Besides the fact that Wall is the Wizards’ top player and Sessions is a definite downgrade at the point-guard position, Wall’s absence means guys like Bradley Beal are really going to have to step up in order to beat the Hawks. Beal is a talented player no doubt, but he doesn’t typically drive as much as Wall, and his shooting can be a little off at times. He’ll have to improve in both areas against a Hawks defense that’s no doubt going to be zoned in on Beal now that they know the team’s top option is hurt, and that’s true even if Wall does make a return to the series.
Not only will Beal need to perform out of his mind in order for Washington to stand a chance, but guys like Paul Pierce, Otto Porter, Nene and Marcin Gortat are going to have to step their collective games up as well. Pierce is no doubt a killer in fourth quarters, a seasoned veteran, and someone who can always be counted on to hit a big shot, but he can’t get teammates involved or drive like Wall can. Porter has had a breakout postseason, but it’s doubtful he can raise his game to even another level. Nene just hasn’t looked like himself all playoffs.
Gortat is averaging a double-double against the Hawks, but his scoring has been held in check by the Hawks after a monster first round. He has seen his field goal percentage drop to 53 percent in this series, which is a far cry from the 74 percent shot in Round 1 against the Toronto Raptors. He has clearly had a tough time dominating in the paint, as Paul Millsap and Al Horford offer an ability to score, rebound and even defend in a way that the likes of Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas simply didn’t bring to the table.
That’s what the series between the Wizards and Hawks will ultimately come down to at the end of it all: the fact that there’s a demand for increased performance that Washington simply can’t meet without Wall leading the charge. It’s a really unfortunate situation to be in for a team that at the end of Round 1 looked like it was poised to beat everybody in the Eastern Conference, albeit thanks in large part to a Raptors team that didn’t look ready to be in the playoffs.
If there’s any good news to take out of the Wizards’ current situation, it’s that nobody will play the blame game or call for drastic changes in Washington since the team will likely fall to one of the best teams in the NBA seemingly without its best player in the lineup. It’s just too bad that there won’t be any surprises in terms of the way the playoffs are about to play out.
What’s surprising is that Wall’s hand appears to be beyond repair; at least as far as being effective during the rest of the series is concerned even if he does return to game action. It just goes to show that being healthy is a key ingredient to winning in the NBA playoffs, and why the Wizards’ winning ways may about to be coming to an abrupt end.