Before the Washington Wizards hosted the Boston Celtics on Sunday in the first game of a home-and-home set, coach Flip Saunders said he wanted to see John Wall play with more enthusiasm. Wall sulked through the Wizards' loss in Milwaukee on Friday and Saunders criticized his effort, claiming there would be consequences if he couldn't handle his emotions better.
"I told him, if he doesn't play hard and he doesn't have a smile on his face, I'm going to take him out," Saunders said of Wall. "He's got to put that passion, that smile back on his face."
Wall conceded that he was "not enjoying playing basketball" with the team playing poorly to start the season, and the performance by the Wizards during a 94-86 loss to the Celtics at Verizon Center certainly didn't give him much to smile about.
They couldn't shoot or defend as Wall's counterpart, Rajon Rondo, flaunted playing with three future Hall of Famers, spreading the ball around and picking the right time to go for his own scoring opportunities. Rondo had a tripledouble with 18points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds.
Wall bounced back with his most complete game, scoring 19 points with a season-high eight assists and seven rebounds, but he couldn't help the Wizards avoid opening the season at 0-4 for the first time since 2008-09, when the team lost its first five games and finished with a franchise-worst record for 82 games at 19-63.
Nick Young had 18 points and JaVale McGee had 16 points and 14rebounds, but the Wizards got little production from their bench and were unable to come back from a 19-point first-half deficit.
The Wizards wore their red, white and blue road uniforms, which was appropriate because the team gave the sort of poor performance it more often reserves for road games and Verizon Center was populated with many Celtics fans. The Wizards fans in attendance booed the home team off the court.
The Wizards entered the game ranked next to last in the NBA in field-goal percentage (38.6 percent) and they managed to miss even that merely hopeful target in the first half, when they rushed errant jumpers and missed shots close to the basket.
They were especially putrid in the second quarter, when they missed 16 of 20 attempts, but were outscored only 23-17 in the period because Wall kept getting to the foul line. Wall made seven of eight free throws.
The Celtics led by double digits within the first eight minutes of the game, with their crisp ball movement and defensive pressure leaving the Wizards confused. They held a 51-34 lead at halftime after shooting 55.6 percent from the field and holding the Wizards to 28.2 percent.
The Wizards broke out of their slump in the second half, getting within 65-58 when Jordan Crawford made his only field goal of the game — a 3-pointer that caused reserve Ronny Turiaf to kick wildly in celebration.