Key Legislature: Wizards 103 vs Hawks 101 — Soil by Nene and Otto, Flowers by Paul | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 103 vs Hawks 101 — Soil by Nene and Otto, Flowers by Paul

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Updated: May 11, 2015

Truth About It.net’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s)
for Washington Wizards second round playoff contest No. 3 versus the Atlanta Hawks in D.C.
via Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) from the Verizon Center.

DC Council Key Legislature

by Kyle Weidie.

Neither team started Game 3 with any sort of offensive flow. Jeff Teague got the boo treatment right away (for his unintentional role in John Wall’s wrist injury); Ramon Sessions attacked but was not Wall; and Pero Antic, starting for a slightly-ill Paul Millsap, threw up misses, doing the struggling Nene a favor. The Wizards weren’t totally on their bounce-back game, either. Open 3s and long-range 2s were missed, open cutters weren’t immediately seen, and jump-to-pass turnovers (something we believe Wall should generally avoid but that we also take for granted his ability to execute) kicked off the night.

It wasn’t until 2:40 of jitters were released that Washington seemed to gain its bearings. Neither team sent platoons to the offensive glass, both choosing to better gear up for defense, but at this juncture, Nene used his size against the numbers to snag a Bradley Beal miss already kept alive by Marcin Gortat’s fingers. With teammates clearing space, Nene charged like a bull toward the middle of the paint from the left side of the floor and used his speed advantage to get by Antic with a right foot drop-step and left-handed hook into the basket. It was Nene’s first field goal of the series and it opened the floodgates.

Nene suddenly became the master communicator on defense his teammates are so used to. At the 8:20 mark of the first Nene helped navigate a forced switch to Jeff Teague, gobbled up space, along with teammates, on dribble penetration, and the Wizards were left giving Atlanta exactly what they wanted to concede: a midrange Al Horford 2-pointer that missed. About a minute later Nene and Otto Porter were forced to switch onto DeMarre Carroll and Pero Antic respectively. As soon as cutting Hawks allowed, Nene expertly communicated a switch back to the proper matchups and the play ultimately ended with Porter & Co. swatting a Carroll attempt out of bounds. Atlanta’s ball movement was relatively neutralized by the Wizards’ team defense, led by an engaged Nene and spearheaded by Randy Wittman’s game planning. Atlanta scored 18 first-quarter points on 7-for-22 shooting; the Hawks went 0-for-8 on 2-pointers outside of the paint and 2-for-6 on 3-pointers. All of that set quite the tone.

For reasons beyond basketball yet all because of a love for basketball, we’ll always remember Paul Pierce’s Game 3 buzzer-beater. As TAI’s Bartosz Bielecki wrote, we will one day not care that Washington blew a 21-point lead to put them in position to win the game; nor will we care what the Hawks could have done strategically to avoid getting beat by Pierce—including having DeMarre Carroll on the court; avoiding allowing the smaller Dennis Schröder to switch on Pierce (something Kyle Korver seemed unwilling to do); and sending help earlier to get the ball out of Pierce’s hands and into another Wizard’s hands for a rushed shot. Always easy to second-guess.

So with the soil tilled by Nene and the flowers planted by Pierce, we’ll turn to three key plays from the third quarter that defined Washington’s Game 3 win and which could define the rest of the series.

#1.

Just under two minutes into the third quarter, Ramon Sessions created spacing and Atlanta’s defense gave Marcin Gortat an open jumper from the baseline. He missed. But Nene planted his massive body in the paint, boxed out two Hawks, grabbed the offensive rebound over three Hawks, and immediately kicked the ball out to Bradley Beal, who, by gosh, stepped into a very efficient 3-point attempt and made it, putting the Wizards up 61-45.
[Video via NBA.com]

#2.

A key to Washington establishing its big men, Randy Wittman will tell you, is having said big men run the floor. So on one trip, Nene ran the floor and got post position that left Atlanta’s defense scrambling to help and recover. As the Wizards quickly moved the ball out of awkward situations, they did find themselves with a wide-open opportunity for Nene to jack a midrange jumper. He didn’t. Instead, he gave the slowest pump fake in the world as Atlanta’s defenders continued to try to seek better spots. But DeMarre Carroll, said to be one of the Hawks’ best defenders, got caught over-helping and watching the ball. Young Otto Porter did not settle for simply being buried in the right corner and instead used Carroll’s unawareness to his advantage and cut toward the basket. Nene, being a better passing big man than most, found Porter and the Wizards found the layup for the 72-58 lead with six minutes left in the third.
[Video via NBA.com]

#3.

A desperate Atlanta defense scrambled to eliminate openings very late in the third. But a willing-to-pass and not-hold-the-ball Wizards offense easily countered that. On another particular possession I counted seven passes, from inbounding the ball against pressure at one end to Marcin Gortat (as underrated as Nene in terms of his ability to pass, and in terms of both of them compared the rest of the bigs in the NBA) finding a once-again cutting Otto Porter on a foray to the hoop. Bradley Beal was the only Wizard not to touch the ball on this possession. And I suppose that a dribbling and navigating Ramon Sessions gets some credit for baiting over-help from Pero Antic far from the basket. Once that happened, the ball just had to move—from Sessions to Drew Gooden to Gortat to Porter, once again happy to take advantage of being the ignored Wizard on the floor. This action gave Washington a 15-point lead (80-65) that would later be relinquished, but how they got to that point was just as important as hitting the final shot with zero time left on the clock.
[Video via NBA.com]

The Wizards have the ingredients, and the talent, to take down the top-seeded Hawks, but staying true to that is always a question in pro sports. Aren’t we lucky that we get to find out whether Washington will retain that fidelity soon?

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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle lives in D.C. with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.