Hawks try to scale Wizards' Wall in Game 2
WASHINGTON -- The Atlanta Hawks know the key to slowing down the Washington Wizards' up-tempo offense.
Actually slowing down Wizards guard John Wall isn't quite so simple. That the Hawks couldn't in the opener of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round playoff series is why Washington has a 1-0 lead.
Wall scored 15 of his 32 points in the third quarter and finished with 14 assists in the Wizards' 114-107 win Sunday on their home court. The third period was when Washington found the form that led to a 49-33 regular-season record, the most victories for the franchise since 1978-79.
The All-Star guard, arguably the fastest player in the league with the ball, repeatedly raced past defenders either for baskets or to set up teammates Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Markieff Morris.
"Transition. Same since day one. If we do not get back, it is going to be hard for us to win games, so they took advantage of that," Hawks guard Tim Hardaway Jr. said. "John Wall is a blur out there, and when you have (Beal) and Otto Porter out there ... when he is in transition, those are his outlets. You know he puts so much pressure whenever he has those outlets and he knocks those shots down, it is kind of hard to (cover him)."
The Hawks spent the past two days of practice focusing on doing just that. At Tuesday's practice, Hardaway and rookie Taurean Prince both mentioned the idea of building a "wall" of defenders quickly in order to prevent Wall from once again causing havoc on the fastbreak.
Washington trailed 48-45 at halftime in Game 1, but with Wall in control, the Wizards outscored Atlanta 38-28 in the third quarter and led by as many as 15 points in the fourth.
Wizards coach Scott Brooks has a difference view of Wall's surges.
"I've seen it enough and I know now just to keep my mouth shut," Brooks said. "Let him take over the game."
Help came in the form of 22 points from Beal and 21 from Morris, who also had four blocked shots.
"I think (Morris) came out and was aggressive for us in the third quarter and got us going," Wall said. "We started to get a lot of stops out in transition, and I got into a rhythm of knocking down shots and being more aggressive."
Morris also was the main defender against Atlanta's top frontcourt scorer, Paul Millsap. Those two battled often and exchanged words at times. Millsap offered choice words about Washington's defense after the game.
"The difference in the game was we were playing basketball and they were playing MMA," Millsap said after scoring 19 points.
Dennis Schroder had 25 points for the Hawks, who shot 43.6 percent from the field and committed 21 turnovers.
The Wizards anticipate having center Jason Smith (knee) and Kelly Oubre Jr. (knee) available for Game 2. Both returned to practice Tuesday after sitting out Monday's session.
Atlanta reported no injuries ahead of the Wednesday meeting. That includes Thabo Sefolosha, who missed time late in the season with a groin injury before returning for the final two games. The wing defender, who averaged 26 minutes during the regular season, did not play in the series opener.
Updated April 18, 2017