If there is such a thing as a rookie mistake, Denzel Valentine made it Tuesday. He'd drained a three-pointer en route to his career-high 19 points for the Chicago Bulls, but he celebrated a little too much with too much time on the clock for John Wall's taste. The three-time All-Star offered some advice during the timeout that would come back to haunt the rookie.
"I play with a lot of emotion just like him. I understand where he's coming from," said Wall, who had game highs of 26 points and 14 assists, including the game-winning jumper, for the Wizards to get them over .500 for the first time since November 2015. "I just said, 'Don't celebrate this early. You're a rookie. You haven't earned those stripes yet.' I told him, 'That's how you feel? You woke up a monster.' I just went on a scoring spree."
The Wizards trailed 92-85 with 7:38 left on Valentine's shot. The Bulls, who'd blown an 18-point lead, trailed 81-77 entering the fourth and appeared headed to an upset when Valentine's three forced a timeout.
Then Markieff Morris started a 10-0 run with consecutive three-pointers and Wall drained a fallaway jumper to cut the deficit to 93-92. Morris' putback of Wall's missed layup put the Wizards back on top, but after Robin Lopez's free throws Chicago was ahead 99-97. While Valentine only could watch, it was Wall's time to close out the game.
The Bulls did their best to close off the paint, commtting mutiple help defenders to prevent Wall's dribble penetration for most of the game which had much to do with why he didn't attempt a shot in the first quarter.
So Wall began to take what the defense gave him. Out of a timeout, Wall found himself defended by Lopez on a switch while Rajon Rondo was mismatched in the low post with Marcin Gortat. The passing angle wasn't there for an entry pass so Wall got his rhythm on the bounce and pulled up for the tying shot with 47.4 seconds left over Lopez. He won it on the Wizards' bread-and-butter play -- the side pick-and-roll with Gortat.
Gortat screened Michael Carter-Williams which left Wall in space vs. the slow-footed Lopez who gave him the room to square up on the baseline with 5.9 seconds on the clock to give the Wizards (19-18) their 10th consecutive win at Verizon Center.
"He's a winner," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "That is the bottom line. ... I thought he made the right play on shooting that. If they were going to jump out at him, the pass was the right play. It's not who makes the last shot. It's who makes the right play."
Valentine made 4 of 5 threes in the first half to spark Chicago to a 61-49 lead but they collectively shot 0-for-9 from deep in the third quarter. Valentine was 1-for-6 from three in the second half, his make coming on the celebration that pushed Wall to another level for the finish.
"I still had a decent second half, but probably could have made a couple more plays down the stretch but credit to them," Valentine said. "They turned it up. ... John Wall did what he was supposed to do."
Wall's heroics rescued the Wizards -- again -- from a disaster playing against a team that didn't have its best player, Jimmy Butler (illness), its veteran shooting guard Dwyane Wade (scheduled rest) and best bench scoring big in Nikola Mirotic (illness). They had to erase a 12-point deficit on Sunday to beat the Milwaukee Bucks who were without Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Wall logged 40 minutes and made 11 of 21 shots to go with six rebounds. When Wall is putting the ball on the floor and going to his right, which the Bulls allowed, he's at his best on the pull-ups.
"They were back far so I couldn't hit my big, Marcin, rolling (to the rim)," Wall said of how the Bulls defended him. "I was able to get the ball in transition and knock down that shot."
The Wizards lead the season series 2-1 with Chicago, have won theirs 3-1 with Milwaukee, are 1-1 with the Indiana Pacers and hold 1-0 edges vs. the Boston Celtics, New York Knicks and Charlotte Hornets.
To beat the Celtics in the second game of a back-to-back Wednesday at TD Garden, they'll likely need more than Wall.
Valentine probably had enough of him.
"Nah," Wall said when asked if he had any parting words for his foe at the final buzzer. "Didn't have to."