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What's in a game?


In last night's enjoyable win over the Milwaukee Bucks, PG John Wall erupted for one of his best games of the season -- 23 points, 10 assists, just 2 turnovers. The game followed what was probably his best game of the season -- the 27 point, 14 assist, 4 turnover performance against Cleveland the night before.

The production surge is a welcome and encouraging development for the third year player blessed with an abundance of physical ability, but still struggling with his shooting and rampant turnovers. Wizards fans are logically excited.

"THE REAL WALL IS BACK!" a poster calling himself dangermouse proclaimed on the Wizards message board at RealGM.

"Glad to see Wall playing with confidence," wrote TheKingof Va360 at RealGM. "Dude looks like a superstar now. His jumper is improving."

As you can probably guess if you're a regular reader, I hesitate to draw conclusions from a small sample size. And one or two games is the definition of a small sample size.

Last night, for example, Wall wasn't even the first player this week to post a line of 23-10-2 or better -- Deron Williams had 27-13-1 against Philadelphia two days earlier. The 23-10-2 or better line has been achieved 25 times so far this season. The list includes Jordan Crawford, David Lee (!), Jeff Teague and Kemba Walker. Lebron James, Tony Parker and Jarrett Jack have done it three times each.

The 27-14-4 line is significantly rarer -- Wall became just the fourth player this season to produce a game like that. The others: Lebron James, Jrue Holiday and Paul Pierce. Wall has the unfortunate distinction of being the only 27-14-4 player to lose. He's also the only guy to hit those benchmarks in regulation -- the other three needed overtime.

The point here is NOT to crap on Wall's excellent play the last two games. These are encouraging performances and offer a tantalizing look at what he might become. There are noticeable changes in the form on his jumper -- the result of extra work he's been putting in with assistant coach Sam Cassell. Specifically, watch Wall's left hand when he shoots a jumper. It's not on top of the ball anymore, it's to the side where it should be. The result: he's no longer putting weird spins on the ball and he's able to make a smoother and more pure stroke with his right hand. And, the shots are dropping because of it.

My point is that one or two games don't mean much by themselves. Players aren't great because they have a really good game or two every couple weeks. Great players do it nightly. Chris Paul, the NBA's current gold standard for PGs (and an MVP candidate in my analysis), has averaged 20 points and 10 assists in two full seasons, and might be doing it again this year if the Clippers hadn't curtailed his minutes to keep him fresh for the playoffs.

Is it fair to compare Wall with an all-time great like Paul? You bet. Wall's the guy who said he's worth a max contract. He's a former number one overall pick, and he presumably aspires to greatness. If he wants to be counted among to top 5-10 PGs in the league, he needs to produce games like these far more often.

He's been fun to watch these past two games. His progress is encouraging. My message to Wall would be this: Good game, kid. Now keep it going.