INDIANAPOLIS -- John Wall's body language told one story going into Game 5 vs. the Indiana Pacers. He shrugged off questions about pressure, about failing in the postseason and about feeling the heat. He didn't care. Then Wall did an about-face after a stunning 102-79 blowout victory. He made a startling admission. The first-time All-Star and playoff rookie mentally was lost and no longer sure of himself.
Wall had his best game of the postseason at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Tuesday with 27 points on 11-for-20 shooting, including 6 of 8 in the second half and three three-pointers to trim the series to 3-2. In the previous four games, Wall had been shooting less than 35% from the field and less than 20% from three-point range.
Coach Randy Wittman, who Wall lobbied for when he was up for a contract extension two years ago -- and who despite being in the final year of his current contract still challenged his star player to be a better leader, make better decisions and be a better defender in a topsy-turvy regular season -- didn't resort to tough love again. Instead, he encouraged Wall to be bold and embrace his magnificence.
"At shootaround he just told me, 'I want you to be aggressive. If you have 20 turnovers I don't care. I want you to play the way John Wall has helped us throughout this season,'" Wall said. "I told him something he probably never wanted me to say: 'I'm frustrated. I don't know how to get out of this slump. I don't know what to do.' And he was like, 'I never want to hear you say that again because I know how confident you are in yourself and how competitive you are.'
"To hear that from your coach, somebody who has been here for four seasons, riding with me through the thick and thin of things and me having my back is pretty exciting. He text me and said, 'Just believe in yourself John Wall.' And I did."
Wall had 12 turnovers in Games 3 and 4, both home losses for Washington. He had just 12 points Sunday when the Wizards blew a 19-point lead. Wall had a wide-open look at a three-pointer down 94-91 late in the fourth quarter but deferred to Bradley Beal. Though Wall brushed it off, assistant coach Sam Cassell and reserve forward Al Harrington could be seen anguishing on the bench by that decision. The Wizards lost 95-92. Wall had a lot to think about since then, and he bounced back by making 3 of 6 three-pointers in Game 5.
"Ever since that game, I haven't really talked to anybody. I text some people that text me but the plane ride here, I didn't say anything to anybody. All day (Monday), I just sat in my room and watched movies. I just knew I haven't played well this whole series," Wall said. "It's frustrating and you can get down on yourself pretty easily, especially when I've been playing well throughout the season helping my team. I know if we lost this series, I put it all on my shoulders because I know I didn't play well (any) game except for Game 1. "
Marcin Gortat tied his career high with 31 points and had 16 rebounds. He, too, had a few sub-par outings. He tried to encourage Wall, who had his cell phone overloaded with texts from his Kentucky coach John Calipari after the game.
"Right after the starting lineups (were announced) he came to me. Most guys seen me locked in all day, so they weren't trying to say much to me," Wall said. "March pounded on my chest twice and I was like, 'I really don't want to say anything to you right now.' He was like, 'I'm with you no matter what. Everything we've been through this season and through this last game, I want you go to out fighting like you have for us all season.'"
Now the tough part comes for the Wall: Repeating this effort in Game 6 Thursday at Verizon Center, where they're 1-3 in the postseason.