John Wall

It’s been tough for the Brooklyn Nets against the Washington Wizards every time this season, and a third was no different. John Wall had a huge game, leading his team back from a 10-point fourth quarter deficit en route to a season swepp over the old and unpredictable, coming away with the 101-94 win.

The finishing touch was a steal by Wall and then some fancy behind the back dribbling while two players were trying to close down on him midcourt. He got by both of them for the finish that sent the Verizon Center crowd onto their feet following a 29-15 fourth quarter from the Wizards, staying ahead of the Nets in the close positional playoff battle going on in the East below the Heat and the Pacers.

The playoffs are getting nearer for a team that hasn’t been there in six years and the broken promise of the Gilbert Arenas days. John Wall is the new promise, and one that hasn’t imploded once the big contract came his way. He finished with 33 points on 10-of-15 from the field and a 4-of-6 night from beyond the arc. He got some help from Bradley Beal (15 points) and Trevor Ariza with some big plays down the stretch, but the shocking contribution of 10-day signee Drew Gooden came as the most important of all.

With the game tied at 94, 2:47 left on the clock, Gooden, signed because of Nene’s injury, launched a contested 3-point shot no one believed would go in. No one except for him, capping off a 21-point performance to go with 9 rebounds. As Gooden himself mentioned later, when he hits a couple he thinks there’s no shot he can’t make. That’s slightly risky and arrogant coming from a player who couldn’t find a team in the last offseason, but you can’t succeed without having the slightest spark of self belief.

And Gooden wasn’t the only “old-man” to play some meaningful minutes off the bench. Al Harrington scored 6 points, Martell Webster added 7 and Andre Miller added some quality backup minutes to Wall, while Brooklyn’s second unit, usually with Deron Williams or Shaun Livingston accompanying them, usually looked very bad, especially on defense, despite the 19 points from Marcus Thornton.

Trying to see how the Nets lost this game comes down to their free throw shooting, but not just. They shot well, including 52.4% from beyond the arc. However, athletic, young and fresh teams that can make things physically difficult for the Nets without losing their heads, which means not turning over the ball to the long arms of Pierce and Livingston, will make things very difficult for Brooklyn, who need a certain pace and a certain style of game to develop in order to be as dominant as we often see them against the best teams in the league.

It took a great John Wall performance to lead the Wizards to a very important win against a team they just might meet in the first round of the postseason. But it was their defense late in the game and staying away from bad passing lanes that made things difficult for the Nets, who continue to swing on the pendulum between great and awful, sometimes in the same game.

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