Los Angeles Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball will get his first test against an elite NBA point guard on Wednesday night when All-Star John Wall and the Washington Wizards come to town (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App).
Wall brings his 24.3 points and 10 assists per game to the Staples Center with a focus on stopping the NBA's newest sensation in Ball, who thanks to his father LaVar has a big target on his back. After LaVar Ball said Washington "better beware, because Lonzo ain't losing again [this week]", Wizards center Marcin Gortat tweeted that Wall is going to "torture" Lonzo for 48 minutes. The Lakers took umbrage to Gortat's tweet setting up a soap opera-like drama just a week into the NBA season.
Wall is ready for this one.
“Certain matchups you really get up for. Like when you play [Golden State Warriors guard] Steph [Curry], you definitely want to have a good game,” Wall said per the Washington Post. “I’m playing against [Ball]. [Gortat] said what he said about me. I didn’t say anything. His dad has been talking. ... That makes me want to go out there and lead my team and play the best I can play.”
Torturing rookie point guards is something that Wall has done often in his career. The former No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA draft understands the pressures that go with being the face of a rebuilding franchise and has made life difficult when playing rookie point guards, doubling their output in his past 15 matchups against them over the past four seasons.
Wall, in fact, has tortured the Lakers for much of his career. He has a 9-2 record against Los Angeles and averages 24.5 PPG (on 50.3 percent shooting) and 12.7 APG, the most against any opponent.
Ball enters his fourth NBA game having showcased both the good and bad. After struggling being guarded in his debut by the Los Angeles Clippers' Patrick Beverley, Ball racked up 29 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in his second game, a win over the Phoenix Suns. Ball's performance was one of the best performances by a young player in Lakers history. Ball joined Oscar Robertson as the only players in NBA history with at least 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in his first career road game.
Ball's inconsistency, however, showed up in Game 3, as he shot just 3-of-13 from the floor and missed all five 3-point attempts. Ball did dish out a career-high 13 assists and added eight rebounds. Ball's shooting has been a problem with the Lakers in the early going and the team is actually better when he is off the floor than on it. The offense is 24 points better without Ball on the floor through three games, thanks in large part to Jordan Clarkson's NBA-high 19.7 PPG off the bench.
The Lakers are slight underdogs against the Wizards, according to ESPN's Basketball Power Index, and will send the second-youngest roster to the floor in the NBA at 24.6 years of age.
Washington is looking to start 4-0 for the first time since the 1978-79 season, when it went on to lose in the NBA Finals as the Washington Bullets. The Lakers? They are still trying to figure out if Ball is the star they believe he is. Wednesday night is just the latest chance for him to prove it.