The Atlanta Hawks returned home to Philips Arena Saturday afternoon for Game 3 of their first round playoff series against the Washington Wizards. Were they able to get their first win of the series?
The Atlanta Hawks have not enjoyed their start to the 2017 NBA Playoffs. The Hawks entered into Saturday afternoon’s Game 3 having lost the first two games of their series against the Washington Wizards.
That made Game 3 a must-win. Going down 3-0 in a playoff series essentially seals your fate. Boston Red Sox style comebacks don’t happen every series. The best an NBA team can hope for is to comeback from a 3-1 deficit. Am I right, Golden State?
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All jokes aside, Atlanta had to win this game to have any hope of making this series competitive.
Things got off to a good start.
The Hawks jumped out to a 13-2 lead and knocked down their first three three-point attempts, after failing to make a single triple in the first half of Game 2.
They’d eventually stretch that lead to 33-11 before Washington settled into the game. Atlanta’s lead was 38-20 at the end of the first quarter.
A 5-for-9 effort from behind the three-point line helped them keep control of the game for the entire quarter. Atlanta also had nine assists and only two turnovers in the quarter.
Atlanta’s success continued in the second quarter. Thanks in part to some aggressive defense that seemed to bother Washington’s guards. Never say Mike Budenholzer doesn’t have a few tricks up his sleeve.
The Hawks weren’t able to turn the game into a blowout until late. John Wall wouldn’t let that happen early on. Wall scored 21 points and dished out four assists on 7-for-8 shooting in the first half. Wall was the only Wizard to score in double figures in the first half. Without his contributions this game would have been virtually over by half-time.
Dennis Schroder nearly matched his talented counterpart. Schroder finished the half with 20 points and five assists on 8-for-14 shooting. Paul Millsap played sidekick, adding 15 points and nine rebounds of his own. Overall, Atlanta shot 55.3 percent from the field and 46.2 percent from three in the first half.
The Hawks turned up the heat in the second half. They outscored the Wizards by five points in the third quarter to take a 90-67 into the game’s final quarter.
Washington cut Atlanta’s lead to 12 points midway through the third quarter, but four straight points from Dennis Schroder would calm things down and return the momentum back to the Hawks. Their lead would never be in doubt again.
This win saw the Hawks return to “Bud Ball”. At times, the ball movement was reminiscent of the 2014-15 Hawks. Okay it wasn’t quite that good, but it was still nice to see them move the ball and knock down open shots.
Atlanta finished the game with 26 assists and only 11 turnovers. They shot 49.4 percent from the field and made nine three-pointers. The offense looked much more fluid than it did in the first two games of this series. In the end, the Hawks came away with a relatively easy 116-98 win to push the series to 2-1 in favor of Washington.
Millsap and Schroder led the Hawks in scoring. Millsap had 29 points and 14 rebounds, dominating his matchup with Markieff Morris. Morris had just nine points and six rebounds, while he committed five fouls. Schroder finished with 27 points and nine assists on 10-for-22 shooting.
If you’re a big-time Hawks fan, go out and buy a Taurean Prince jersey for yourself and every member of your immediate family. This guy is going to be a really good NBA player for many years. Heck, he’s already a fan favorite and an extremely important role player. He had another outstanding game on Saturday, finishing with 16 points and four rebounds on 7-for-10 shooting.
Malcolm Delaney was a garbage time assassin, scoring eight points in just three minutes of action. Atlanta’s bench combined to score 31 points on the night.
Dwight Howard had another quiet night, but at least he played in the fourth quarter. He finished the game with five points and 11 rebounds in just 27 minutes. He had a team-high plus/minus rating of plus 24.
Thabo Sefolosha once again found himself out of the rotation, only playing three minutes in garbage time. Sefolosha didn’t play in Game 1 and played just four minutes in Game 2. After a Game 3 victory, I can’t imagine Mike Budenholzer playing him in Game 4.
John Wall’s 29 points and seven assists were not enough for the Wizards to make this game competitive. The Wizards shot 41.6 percent from the field and 24.1 percent from outside. Bradley Beal never found his jumper. Beal ended his night with 12 points on 6-for-20 shooting and 0-for-6 from three-point range.
Otto Porter Jr. also had a rough night for Washington. Porter finished the game with seven points and two rebounds on 3-for-7 shooting and exited the game in the third quarter due to a neck strain. Losing Porter for a significant stretch would be a huge blow to Washington’s starting lineup. Porter has struggled in this series, so the Wizards can get by without him contributing, but losing him certainly isn’t ideal for them.
It would seem that Atlanta’s regular season tendency of playing poorly one night and looking like one of the best team’s in the Eastern Conference on the next night also applies to the postseason. You never know which team you’re going to see on any given night. It’s both fun and terrifying. For now, Hawks fans will be happy to have a fighting chance in this series.
Game 4 will again be in Atlanta. The Hawks and Wizards will tip-off Monday at 8:00 p.m. on TNT as the Hawks look to even the series at 2-2.