On Wednesday night, the Atlanta Hawks battled the Washington Wizards in Game 2 of their first round playoff series. Were they able to even up the series at 1-1?
The Atlanta Hawks entered Wednesday night’s contest against the Washington Wizards down 1-0 in their first round playoff series. You can’t win a playoff series in the first two games, but you can definitely lose it.
The Hawks would look to avoid falling into a 2-0 hole before the series shifts down south. Stealing a game in Washington would give them a confidence boost heading into Saturday’s Game 3 in Atlanta. Winning on the road in the playoffs is easier said than done. That’s especially true against a team as talented as the Wizards.
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After a sluggish start by both teams, a 14-0 Wizards run gave Washington a 16-6 lead midway through the first quarter. All 14 points were scored by John Wall and Bradley Beal. It looked like a movie Hawks fans have seen many times.
Dennis Schroder finally broke the drought with a nifty mid-range jumper. The Hawks would settle down and even secure a 24-23 lead after one quarter.
Schroder’s aggressiveness helped Atlanta take back the lead. He ended the first quarter with 12 points and three assists.
He exploited his matchup with Brandon Jennings, blowing by him to the basket whenever the opportunity presented itself.
After Game 1, Paul Millsap made a comment to the media regarding Washington’s physical play. The Wizards continued that strategy in Game 2. Hard screens and rough fouls were not in short supply, however, the whistles were a little bit tighter than in Game 1.
Markieff Morris was saddled with early foul trouble, picking up a pair of fouls in the first quarter. He would pick up a third before the first half was over. Both teams appeared visually upset with the officiating throughout the entire game.
By halftime the Wizards had compiled a 51-43 lead. Atlanta’s offense was lackluster, to say the least, in the first half. They shot just 34.9 percent from the field and 0-for-8 from three-point range. Schroder was the only player in double figures with 15 points. An eight-point deficit should have been considered a victory considering that second quarter performance.
The whistles didn’t stop in the second half. I’m surprised the referees didn’t attend the post-game press conferences to call a few more fouls there. Washington had six players with three or more fouls. Markieff Morris and Jason Smith each committed five fouls.
Atlanta shot 33-for-38 from the free-throw line, while Washington shot 24-for-33. The game took nearly three hours to complete. This series may become more efficient if they actually switch to MMA instead if basketball.
Paul Millsap erupted in the third quarter to help the Hawks regain control of the game. He started to match the physicality displayed by Washington’s big men, and the Hawks were better for it. Millsap scored 14 points in the third quarter to give Atlanta a 78-74 lead with one quarter left to play.
The Wizards tied the game at 84 with under eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Thanks in part to Brandon Jennings roasting Jose Calderon on several possessions. Excuse me, that’s “playoff X-Factor Brandon Jennings”.
Hawks turnovers and Bradley Beal gave Washington a 91-89 lead with 5:45 to play. Three Tim Hardaway Jr. free-throws on the ensuing possession tilted the score back in Atlanta’s favor. The game had turned into a see-saw, until Washington seized control. Kent Bazemore‘s turnover with a little more than one minute remaining led to a John Wall fastbreak dunk to put the Wizards ahead 103-98.
That was essentially the straw that broke the camel’s back for Atlanta. Washington’s lead would never be in doubt again. The Wizards would close out a 109-101 win. The Hawks fought hard, but they didn’t make enough plays down the stretch.
Atlanta’s offense collapsed late in the fourth quarter. The Wizards ended up outscoring the Hawks 35-23 in the final quarter. Turnovers were another killer, especially when paired with poor shooting. The Hawks committed 18 turnovers and shot just 40.5 percent from the field. They also shot a dismal 4-for-20 from three-point range.
Atlanta was led by Paul Millsap, who finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists on 6-for-14 shooting and 14-for-15 from the free-throw line. Dennis Schroder nearly matched him, scoring 23 points and collecting six assists on 8-for-21 shooting.
Taurean Prince was another bright spot. The rookie had 13 points and four rebounds on 5-for-8 shooting. Tim Hardaway Jr. struggled through an inefficient shooting night around the basket. Hardaway scored 19 points but did it on 5-for-14 shooting. He did shoot 2-for-4 from outside, comprising half of Atlanta’s made three-pointers. Atlanta’s bench combined to score just 14 points.
Dwight Howard was once again relegated to the bench in crunch-time. Mike Muscala played in favor of Howard due to his floor-stretching abilities. Howard played just 20 minutes total. He finished with six points and seven rebounds on 3-for-5 shooting.
This game notably saw Thabo Sefolosha implemented back into Atlanta’s rotation, albeit briefly. Sefolosha played just four minutes. He missed the only two shots he took and failed to record a single statistic. Could his groin injury still be lingering?
It’s probably not a coincidence that the Hawks continue to have no answer defensively for John Wall and Bradley Beal. Washington’s dynamic duo dominated again. Wall finished with 32 points, nine assists, and five rebounds on 9-for-20 shooting. Beal ended his night with 31 points on 12-for-25 shooting and 4-for-10 from three-point range.
Brandon Jennings finished with 10 points in total. His hot stretch early in the fourth quarter prevented Atlanta from stretching out their lead. That made a huge difference in the game, as it kept Atlanta’s lead in check and allowed Wall and Beal to takeover later in the quarter.
Marcin Gortat was the only other Washington starter to score in double figures. He finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds on 7-for-10 shooting. He continues to outplay the player he used to backup during his days with the Orlando Magic.
The Hawks are now down 0-2 in the series. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that they probably aren’t going to win this series. It’s not impossible. The Cleveland Cavaliers famously came back from down 3-1 against the Golden State Warriors to win the championship last season. Of course, that team had LeBron James. The Atlanta Hawks do not.
Game 3 is clearly a must-win game. If Atlanta doesn’t pull one out on Saturday, an off-season filled with uncertainty will likely begin sooner rather than later.