– by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief
WASHINGTON — After two months of underachieving and in-fighting that eventually led to a roster shake-up just 24 hours earlier, it seemed as though the Washington Wizards needed to have the best player on the planet come to town to play their best game of the season. As LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, winners of seven of their last nine games, were about to continue Washington’s miserable end to 2018, another All-Star flipped the script and stole the show in a big way.
John Wall exploded with a Lebron-like stat line — 40 points, 14 assists, six rebounds, three steals and two blocks — in lifting Washington to a dominant 128-110 victory over the Lakers in a game that was even more lopsided than the final margin suggested.
“I know all the Lakers fans out there were probably upset,” Wall said, in reference to the numerous fans in the arena wearing the purple and gold of Los Angeles.
A disappointing start to the season for the Wizards (12-18) saw its nadir arrive on Friday off the court, when a proposed three-way deal involving the Memphis Grizzlies, Phoenix Suns and the Wizards fell apart in under zany circumstances when, reportedly, the Suns thought they were acquiring Memphis’s Dillon Brooks instead of MarShon Brooks, whom the Grizzles wanted to send to Phoenix. (Reports also surfaced that it might have been the Grizzlies who backed out of the deal at the last second.) Washington did end up completing a deal with Phoenix less than 24 hours later, moving both Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers to Phoenix to acquire Trevor Ariza.
Washington was shorthanded but undaunted, as Wall and backcourt mate Bradley Beal turned the clock back to a couple of years ago when their outstanding play turned Washington into one of the toughest places to win a game on the road. Wall scored 28 of his points and had eight of his assists in the first half as the Wizards opened up a lead as much as 18 in the first quarter and were up 20 at intermission. Beal, along with having to defend LeBron for most of the time the latter was on the floor, finished the night with 25 points and 12 rebounds.
“We did a good job of making it a little difficult on [LeBron], showing him a lot of bodies, active hands,” Beal said.
Los Angeles ended up looking like a team that was playing the second game of a back-to-back, missing 14 of their first 19 field-goal attempts, including their first eight three-pointers. LeBron was held to a season-low 13 points on 5-of-16 shooting before sitting out the entirety of the fourth quarter.
“The positives of this season is we’ve gotten better every week since the season started & every month,” James said, choosing to focus on the bigger picture. “If we can continue to do that, when April hits we’ll be right where we want to be, so I like the direction we’re headed in.
“I don’t put too much into this game,” James continued. “Look forward to if we’re able to finish out this road trip and go .500 on Tuesday.”
The Lakers finish a four-game road trip on Tuesday in Brooklyn against the Nets.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Sunday evening’s game, with all photos taken by DC-Area photographer Yusuf Abdullah. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are currently 14 pictures in total.