With New York Knicks guard Pablo Prigioni (9) in pursuit, Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) tries to drive past New York Knicks center Cole Aldrich (45) and Knicks guard J.R. Smith (8) in the final moments of the second half of an NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden in New York, Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014. The Knicks defeated the Wizards 103-100. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
A 103-100 loss to the New York Knicks on Oct. 22 closed the Washington Wizards’ preseason at 4-4. Despite the d efeat, all-star guard John Wall and second year man Otto Porter shined in the loss, giving the Wizards front office a wishful preview of what’s to come this season.
Wall capped his night with 29 points, seven assists and four steals. Dominant throughout the night, Wall broke out of an inconsistent preseason to post his best numbers so far in exhibition play. Porter’s hot shooting (4-of-7 from long range) powered the sophomore forward to a 22-point night as he displayed some of the ace marksmanship that most critics assumed Washington would lose after wingman Trevor Ariza departed over the summer. A Carmelo Anthony three-point play on a continuation gave the Knicks the decisive lead, but the duo of Porter and Wall was a pleasure to see as Washington sets to open the season next week.
New York Knicks forwards Carmelo Anthony (7) and Cleanthony Early (17) defend against Washington Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. (22) . (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Porter and Wall will have to be on their games as the focal point of the offense entering the year. Considering Bradley Beal’s wrist injury, a knee bruise from the already 37-year-old Paul Pierce and a slew of suspensions to open the first game of the season, Wall and especially Porter will have to be sharp out the gates. Porter’s all-around game was on full display against New York. His floor game should blend in well with Wall and the inside presence of Nenê and Marcin Gortat. Porter moved without the ball consistently well throughout the preseason and his accuracy on Wednesday wasn’t a fluke. Porter’s jumper as the Big East Player of the Year in his sophomore year at Georgetown was often precise so it wouldn’t surprise if he elevates to at least a plus-35 percent three-point shooter in the NBA.
The last five preseason games saw Porter put nearly 15 points per night along with 4.4 rebounds, two assists and two steals. His upside going into t he year will increase should his playing time be hiked up due to injuries of those in front of him. Porter’s injury-plagued rookie campaign is well behind him and he could be in line for a huge second season as compared to his first. Washington is set at nearly every position aside from the small forward slot. Pierce’s age makes it hard to trust how he’ll hold up for a whole campaign and Porter’s inaugural season was too challenging to pencil him in as a solid starter. But the potential is definitely there.
The Wizards had a solid preseason that started out as a 4-1 record before packing it in to preserve for the regular season. Washington will open on Wednesday night at Miami, in what will be the Heat’s first game as a new-look squad without LeBron James at the controls. A lot of parts have changed in the Eastern Conference which could mean several things for the Wizards.
Washington’s season could explode to start the year but with Beal out until perhaps next January, the key component will be the play of Porter and Wall. Porter needs to be an instant contributor and Wall may need to be a dominant scorer, two roles that neither player may be up for. But with the season only a few days away, Washington will definitely find out soon.