NBA Wrap: John Wall stars for Wizards in big Game 2 win

The modern NBA, with its ban on hand-checking and its infatuation with the pick-and-roll, is a point guard’s league. For that, the Washington Wizards should be very grateful.

In leading the Wizards to a 2-0 first-round lead over the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday, John Wall showed he’s the best point guard in the East. And when he’s playing like this, the conference might not have an answer for the Washington floor general.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but Wall is out here roasting the Hawks. His speed with or without the ball is unparalleled in the NBA, while his understanding of the pace of the game has caught up to his athletic ability over the past couple seasons.

That lethal balance was on full display late in the fourth quarter against Atlanta. Wall took over the game, crushing the Hawks’ hopes just as it looked like Atlanta might steal a win in Washington. When the Hawks played off of him, Wall knocked down jumpers. When they crowded him, he found Bradley Beal for daggers.

Wall finished with 32 points (tying a playoff career high), five rebounds and nine assists. And no matter what Atlanta tried, coach Mike Budenholzer’s team just couldn’t keep up.

Yet you shouldn’t be surprised – that’s been par for the course for teams trying to stop Wall this season.

He averaged 23.1 points on 45.1 percent shooting in 2016-17, the first time Wall averaged more than 20 points in his career. As a scorer, he’s not in the same ballpark as guys like Kyrie Irving or Isaiah Thomas, but those two can’t touch Wall as a true point guard.

On top of his best scoring season, Wall also set a career high with 10.7 assists per game. When you combine his scoring and assists, Wall produced more points per game than either Irving or Thomas this season – all while boasting the best defense of the group by far.

That offensive versatility is particularly key in the playoffs, where teams go out of their way to take away your bread and butter. Predictability means catastrophe in a seven-game series, but an All-Star who can keep the defense guessing gives his team a chance on any given night, against any given opponent.

It’s a skill Wall has in common with LeBron James – and very few others. The only other point guard in Wall’s class in the Eastern Conference is Kyle Lowry, but the 30-year-old can’t hold a candle to Wall as either a scorer or passer.

So when you stack up the numbers and watch the games, the conclusion is clear: Wall – not Irving, Thomas, or Lowry – is the best point guard in the East.

In other playoff action, James Harden hit 35 points as Houston overcame 51 points from Russell Westbrook’s highest-scoring triple-double in playoff history to beat Oklahoma City 115-111.

It was Westbrook’s sixth career playoff triple-double after he racked up an NBA-record 42 in the regular season.

Westbrook collapsed in the fourth quarter, shooting just 4 from 18 as the Rockets rallied from a double-digit deficit to win.

Houston now hold a 2-0 lead in the first-round Western Conference playoff series. Game 3 is Friday night in Oklahoma City.

In Oakland, the Warriors beat Portland 110-81 in Game 2 of their first-round series without the injured Kevin Durant.

An off-form Stephen Curry scored 19 points while JaVale McGee scored 15 points off the bench as the Warriors took a 2-0 series lead.

Draymond Green had a big game for Golden State, grabbing 12 rebounds, 10 assists, and six points as well as blocking three more shots.

All the scores from Wednesday’s NBA playoffs:

Atlanta Hawks 101-109 Washington Wizards (Game 2, Washington lead series 2-0)
Oklahoma City Thunder 111-115 Houston Rockets (Game 2, Houston lead series 2-0)
Portland Trail Blazers 81-110 Golden State Warriors
(Game 2, Warriors lead series 2-0)