Welcome to the Greatest Moment series at Last Word On Pro Basketball, where we’ll present to you each NBA team’s greatest moment of the 21st century. From draft lottery luck, to a franchise-changing trade, to the sweet taste of a championship, every NBA team has had its own special moment to look back on.
In this edition, we will relive the greatest Washington Wizards moment of the 21st century: John Wall’s game winning three-pointer against the Boston Celtics to force Game 7 in the 2017 Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Greatest Philadelphia 76ers Moment of the 21st Century: John Wall’s Three Pointer to Force Game Seven
Since the turn of the century the Washington Wizards have not had much success in the general sense. Years of first round exits followed by not making the playoffs at all. In the last four years however, the Wizards have made the conference semifinals three times out of three trips to the playoffs. These past few seasons are about building the core of the team into a winning culture as well as solidifying franchise player John Wall as a top NBA guard. This past season however took a life of its own in the fans eyes. Wall maintained great season statistics and led the Wizards to a 49-33 season record and a 4-seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. This is following a season where they finished .500 and missed the playoffs. The Wizards may not be a powerhouse like the Cleveland Cavaliers but they can still hang with and defeat the top teams in the league.
These chips on the shoulders and bones to pick culminated with one shot, which just may power the team into the playoffs this upcoming season. One shot to win a game, one shot to put down the surging Celtics, one shot to show that John Wall can be clutch. That one shot blew the top off the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. An electrified John Wall stood atop the announcer’s table and pumped up the crowd, giving the fans a reason to really be excited for the next game, game seven. The Wizards had created a boost of momentum and planned on riding that into the Eastern Conference Semifinals. However, that momentum was stopped by an out of nowhere performance by Boston’s Kelly Olynyk and a 14-point 4th quarter.
The Wizards had played a tough game on their home court trying to win and take down the number one seen Celtics. The teams traded pairs of wins early and Boston was coming off a 20-point win in their hometown to make the series 3-2. Game six was an elimination game for Washington and the team needed their stars to step up. Bradley Beal put 33 points on the board and John Wall added 23 before his last shot of the night. Boston, however, was not to be beaten so easily with Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas both scoring 27 points.
Fourth Quarter Buildup
At the beginning of the quarter, Boston led 69-66 and kept taking the lead by small numbers up until the last few minutes where they led by 5 and seemed to have the game won. The end of the quarter saw Al Horford sink a baseline shot with 7.7 seconds to go put Boston up 91-89. The game was tight and contested as such all the way through and saw the stars of each team find holes in opposing defense.
A routine inbound play to get the ball into a capable shooters hand was called. Bradley Beal was intended to receive the inbound from Markieff Morris and potentially take the game winning three or drive to the basket and possibly draw a foul or send the game into overtime. However, the Celtic defense was too quick to get caught on a pick for Beal and Wall had to make a move. Deep in the corner Wall ran to Morris and took the inbound pass to go heads up on Avery Bradley. The clock is ticking down from seven, Wall takes a dribble forwards and gathers himself to shoot. He pulls up over Bradley and drains the shot with 3.5 seconds to go, putting the Wizards up by one. John Wall does not celebrate or put forth any big emotion at all as he walks to the bench. An aura of confidence and stoic demeanor is all over his face as a few teammates bump chests and talk him up. A figurative dagger for the Boston Celtics and the fans.
The Wizards win Game 6 with that amazing shot and shortly after the buzzer where the Celtics do not match a game winning shot, John Wall stands atop the announcers table and begins to pump up the crowd. He is shouting and gesturing at the crowd in his moment of excitement and celebration to let the fans know that this win was for them. His level of pride and determination to do something for this city that has given him a career is evident in his body language and shouts of elation. Unfortunately, sometimes the sports world doesn’t play along. Game 7 headed back to Boston where Isaiah Thomas and Kelly Olynyk would both contribute to an amazing win for Celtic fans and a heartbreaking loss for Wizard fans.
Its Moment in History
Granted, the Wizards didn’t win the series, and even if they had would have probably fell to eventual Eastern Conference Champion Cleveland Cavaliers. Furthermore, if the Wizards had shocked the East and taken down both one and two seeds, they still would have had the fight of a lifetime trying to defeat the super team in the West, the Golden State Warriors. Nevertheless, this season and playoff series was integral in the Wizards past 17-year history. Plagued by early exits, missing the playoffs, and semifinal losses, the Wizards haven’t been to an Eastern Conference Championship since 1979. The 2016-2017 season for the Wizards was successful and they will look to build upon it in the future. They are a clear favorite to win their division again as well as potentially move up the East with turmoil in Cleveland. The upcoming years will favor the Wizards in securing John Wall for a long-term deal and keeping their core of starting players.
This shot will be remembered as the peak of the Wizards greatest season in the 21st century and will provide momentum to follow up next season with an even better campaign.
WASHINGTON, USA – January 16: Washington Wizards’ John Wall (2) reacts during the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Verizon Center in Washington, USA on January 16, 2017. The Wizards defeated the Blazers 120-101. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)