- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 7, 2017

John Wall walked off the floor Friday night with his nephew in his right arm, a final cap on another thorough performance. Wall finished with 18 points, 18 assists and three turnovers. The Wizards won their ninth consecutive home game. It’s their first nine-game home winning streak since March 3-April 6, 2013.

Three points from that ninth consecutive home win:

Wall killed the Wolves. “Killed us,” was how Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau explained Wall’s influence on the game, a 112-105 Wizards win against the Timberwolves. By halftime, Wall had seven assists, but just four points. He compiled 14 points and 11 assists in the second half against the woeful Minnesota defense. Thibodeau rose to fame largely by introducing the strongside overload to Boston’s potent teams that were anchored by Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. Against Wall and Bradley Beal, Minnesota opted more to fill the paint instead of often shifting to the ball side. Wall sniffed this out early, which led to his reduction of shots — and increases in passes — in the first half. By the second half, he appeared to have the entire Timberwolves defense in-between. Wall pushed the ball for layups, drove and kicked to shooters, though did not go to the foul line until the final eight seconds of the game. Wall played 39:55 without drawing a foul despite seven of his 16 shots being inside the defensive circle in the paint. “It was crazy I only shot two free throws the way I was attacking the basket,” Wall said. “But, look past that. As long as we got the win, I’m fine.” The 18 assists were a season high. His eight fourth-quarter points closed the game.

Minnesota is terrible defensively. Thibodeau likely spends most nights rationalizing his team’s defense by noting the age of his core and the limited time he has been teaching them. He was irritated after the game Friday night. Washington shot 65 percent in the first quarter and 58.2 percent for the game. The Timberwolves were labeled as one of the up-and-coming teams in the preseason. But, their defense has been atrocious and they are heading for the high end of the lottery. “The discipline, the intensity, the finishing of the defense, there was a lot of closeouts which were two steps off and then we don’t challenge the shot correctly,” Thibodeau said. “If you let a guy shoot, he’s going to get rhythm, if you’re not on the body, if you allow someone to screen you, you’re discipline to be into the body so you can negate the screening action. It’s critical. How you challenge a shot is critical. Not jogging back, critical. That’s where we have to improve.” Andrew Wiggins scored 41 points. Here’s Thibodeau’s assessment of Wiggins’ night: “He played well offensively, defensively he’s got to improve. He’s got to do a lot better.” Wizards coach Scott Brooks knows the fire that will be coming from Thibodeau after a defensive night like that. Brooks twice played for teams where Thibodeau was the assistant.

Mahinmi is still wandering in the wilderness. Wizards center Ian Mahinmi is moving toward the midpoint of his six-week projected absence after a platelet-rich plasma injection in both knees. The injection was announced Dec. 20. Brooks said Friday that Mahinmi is on schedule, as far as he knows, and that he told Mahinmi he would stop asking him on a daily basis how he is feeling. Brooks said he has not asked Mahinmi in seven or eight days how he is feeling, but reads the reports about his progress. Each time Brooks is asked about Mahinmi, who was signed for $64 million in the offseason and has played 14 minutes, the coach begins talking wistfully about what Mahinmi could provide the team defensively. “Would definitely love to have him back as soon as we can,” Brooks said. Brooks said Mahinmi will be re-evaluated at the end of the month and pointed out they want him ready to work “consistently” when he comes back to the floor. The Wizards play seven games in February before the all-star break. Feb. 4 vs New Orleans will be six weeks since Mahinmi’s injections. That’s just 10 days before the all-star break. Mahinmi not being available until after the break would not be a surprise.

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