Thursday NBA Roundup: John Wall's All-Star Snub Makes Red-Hot Wizards Dangerous

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 19, 2017

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 19:  John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards celebrates in the fourth quarter against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on January 19, 2017 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Take a look at John Wall's Twitter feed, and you'll see the same thing over and over again: The Washington Wizards point guard has spent the better part of January constantly retweeting messages that include his name and the all-important "#NBAVote" hashtag. 

Of course, it didn't pay off.

Wall was omitted from the Eastern Conference's starting lineup in favor of Kyrie Irving and DeMar DeRozan, and now the rest of the league is going to pay. The New York Knicks were the first to feel his wrath in a closer-than-it-should-have-been 113-110 defeat at Madison Square Garden. 

According to NBA.com's official results, Wall somehow finished seventh in fan voting, trailing Irving, Dwyane Wade, DeRozan, Isaiah Thomas, Kyle Lowry and Derrick Rose. He fared better in the other sections—fourth in the player vote and fifth among the media panel—but it wasn't enough.

And as this breakdown from NBA Math might indicate, his play should have merited stronger consideration: 

Wall might not admit this snub will motivate him, but based on how he performed Thursday night, he won't need to. His play can do all the talking.

The floor general was dynamite from start to finish against Rose, who, again, received more votes from fans. It's worth driving home just how outlandish that result was, is and will be.

Wall helped his team open up a double-digit lead in the first quarter behind 11 points and seven assists. Everything he did was efficient, as he missed only a single shot from the field and passed the rock with pinpoint precision, most notably on this dime to Marcin Gortat:

Then the Washington bench let him down, as it so often has this season.

The Wizards were utterly defenseless against a 25-point onslaught from Carmelo Anthony in the second period. Even as they kept him away from the basket, they were powerless to slow down the barrage of mid-range jumpers:

But Wall would get the last laugh, finishing with the victory and yet another stellar stat line: 29 points, five rebounds, 13 assists and three steals on 11-of-21 shooting from the field. And he was never better than during the closing minutes. 

After a rough start to the 2016-17 campaign, the Wizards have slowly crawled back into the playoff picture. It hasn't been easy, but they've been able to ride Wall's heroics, Bradley Beal's offensive exploits and Otto Porter's development into someone who's sure to make oodles of cash this summer.

Entering the Knicks affair, Washington sat at 22-19 on the year and had won six of its last seven games. More importantly, the team was within shouting distance of the Atlanta Hawks and the Eastern Conference's No. 4 seed. 

Wall wasn't about to let the Wizards lose that progress against the increasingly hapless Knicks. And he didn't, putting together a pair of clutch plays that will surely be revisited if his squad is in contention for home-court advantage in a few months: 

Those plays don't happen without a combination of skill, athleticism and motivation. Now, after being forced to wait for the reserves announcement to know if he makes the All-Star roster, Wall has more of the last component than ever.

"Everything that comes with it—MVP, All-NBA, All-Star MVP, winning an NBA championship," he recently told Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. "I know there's a lot of great players in this league but me being healthy and me being back to myself, I give myself a shot to be one of the best players in the league. But it's all about winning. You don't get those accolades without winning. If you're not winning, you don't get noticed."

Wall didn't list becoming an All-Star starter as one of those accolades, but it certainly counts as such. Though history may not differentiate between starters and reserves, it will inevitably sting that the fans, media and players didn't feel he was deserving enough during a career season. 

That just means he has to win even more. And that, in turn, means he needs to keep playing like he did against the Knicks, or like he did while winning the Eastern Conference Player of the Month award for his December exploits. Washington is wholly dependent on him and the rest of the starters in its quest to remain competitive. According to NBA.com, the team posts a minus-9.3 net rating when he's on the bench, and that elevates to plus-4.3 with him on the floor. 

Wall simply has to continue rolling for the Wizards to keep pace and potentially earn a top-four seed out East. At least he now has a little more drive to do exactly that. 

    

Cleveland Cavaliers Back on Track

CLEVELAND, OH - JANUARY 19: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks to pass against the Phoenix Suns on January 19, 2017 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or
David Liam Kyle/Getty Images

This is more like it. 

The Cleveland Cavaliers shouldn't be fully satisfied with their 118-103 victory over the Phoenix Suns, who fell to just 13-29 after this latest loss. The Cavs' defense was still a bit too easy to penetrate, and they fouled way too frequently, sending the opposition to the stripe 31 times. 

But this was a major step in the right direction. 

Since the beginning of January, the Cavaliers have been bad. Not bad relative to expectations, just flat-out bad.

They'd gone 4-4 prior to this outing, beating no one better than the New Orleans Pelicans while losing to every playoff hopeful they faced. After their 126-91 thrashing by the Golden State Warriors, their January net rating fell to minus-6.7—better than only the Miami Heat, Orlando Magic and Brooklyn Nets. Offense served as the primary culprit, as the Cavs were one of three teams failing to score at least a point per possession. 

Offense posed no problems Thursday night

Granted, the caveats that come with playing a struggling Suns squad have to apply, but so many different players thrived: LeBron James flirted with a triple-double (21 points, nine rebounds, 15 assists), while Irving (26 points), Channing Frye (18 points), Iman Shumpert (17 points) and James Jones (14 points) all hit double figures. 

The schedule is about to toughen up with the San Antonio Spurs looming, but at least Cleveland gets to take some much-needed positives away from this outing. 

    

Nikola Jokic Keeps Rolling

Yes, the Spurs beat the Denver Nuggets 118-104 and still have yet to lose their 10th game of the season. Yes, Kawhi Leonard dropped 34 points—his fifth consecutive outing scoring in the 30s. 

But Leonard still wasn't the high scorer of the night. 

Taking advantage of a weakened San Antonio frontcourt, which was missing Pau Gasol after he fractured his left hand in pregame warm-ups, per ESPN.com's Michael C. Wright, Nikola Jokic exploded. He often seemed incapable of missing, thriving as he knocked down touch shots around the hoop, mid-range jumpers and a pair of triples to finish with 35 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two blocks on 14-of-22 shooting. 

This may have been a career night from Jokic, but it falls in line with everything he's done over the last few outings:

Nikola Jokic's Recent Games
GamePointsReboundsAssistsFG-FGA3P-3PA
Jan. 5191158-100-0
Jan. 12221077-122-3
Jan. 163011513-191-2
Jan. 172915112-221-5
Jan. 193512414-222-4
Average27.011.84.454-85 (63.5%)6-14 (42.9%)

The Denver offense has been unstoppable with Jokic running the show. Operating as a primary facilitator and aggressive scoring threat, he's kept defenses off balance and constantly found ways to adjust to any and all schematic alterations. 

That dizzying skill set was on display yet again Thursday night. San Antonio seemed intent on cutting off the lobs into the paint that have produced so many recent highlights, so Jokic took over as a versatile scorer.

Just look at the dexterity (and luck) it takes to play volleyball and then get the ball to drop in traffic: 

Take a peek at his water polo style on this play:

Since re-entering the starting lineup on Dec. 15, Jokic is averaging 20.4 points, 9.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 0.7 steals and 0.8 blocks while shooting 63.8 percent from the field, 46.4 percent from downtown and 78.2 percent from the charity stripe. 

Start thinking of him as a star. He is one. 

    

Dunk of the Night: Kristaps Porzingis

Kristaps Porzingis is the master of the putback dunk, to the point that Bleacher Report's Dan Favale once wrote an article ranking the best of his second-chance slams. 

He was back to his old tricks Thursday night, swooping in to steal a rebound away from Porter and completing a vicious jam: 

If you have to watch that six more times, I can't blame you. Kevin Harlan's call will never cease to entertain.

    

KAT and the Timberpups Expose Short-Handed Clippers

Down the stretch of a tight game, the Minnesota Timberwolves rolled with a lineup composed of Kris Dunn, Tyus Jones, Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. Not only were they able to hold off the enemy and emerge with a 104-101 victory, but they also allowed ESPN.com's J.A. Adande to publish this interesting tidbit:

The lineup worked, largely because Towns couldn't be stopped. 

Abusing DeAndre Jordan at every turn, the reigning Rookie of the Year put together a relentless barrage of offense. He scored in the post, created second-chance opportunities, drained mid-range looks and showed no hesitation contributing in big moments. When the final buzzer sounded, he'd recorded 37 points (15 in the fourth quarter), 12 rebounds and five assists on 17-of-24 shooting from the field. 

This is the future for Minnesota. 

Head coach Tom Thibodeau trusted his youngsters, and the gambles paid off. Though no one on the floor during crunch time has yet celebrated his 23rd birthday, they were able to maintain their poise and highlight franchise upside. 

On the flip side, the Clippers became who we thought they'd be without Chris Paul (torn ligament in his left thumb) and Blake Griffin (arthroscopic surgery in his right knee). NBAwowy.com showed the team had posted a minus-6.6 net rating without the two superstars on the floor prior to this game, and that was readily apparent as it struggled against a young squad still learning how to win. 

Jordan (29 points and 16 rebounds) did his part. Austin Rivers and Raymond Felton held their own against Minnesota's guards. But it just wasn't enough, and LAC failed to generate much offense in the biggest moments, devolving into isolation sets and failing to overcome hack-a-Jordan. 

Until Griffin returns, the Clippers will fall down the Western Conference standings, even when they don't have to face someone of Towns' caliber. 

    

Thursday's Final Scores

  • Cleveland Cavaliers 118, Phoenix Suns 103
  • Miami Heat 99, Dallas Mavericks 95
  • Washington Wizards 113, New York Knicks 110
  • San Antonio Spurs 118, Denver Nuggets 104
  • Minnesota Timberwolves 104, Los Angeles Clippers 101

    

Adam Fromal covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @fromal09.

Unless otherwise indicated, all stats from Basketball-Reference.comNBA.com or NBA Math and accurate heading into Thursday's games.