Opening Statements: Rd. 2, Gm. 3 — 5 Ways to Beat Atlanta Without John Wall | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements: Rd. 2, Gm. 3 — 5 Ways to Beat Atlanta Without John Wall

Updated: May 9, 2015

[Wizards vs Hawks Game 3 Shirts, via @Truth_About_It]

[Wizards vs Hawks Game 3 Shirts, via @Truth_About_It]

I get it. John Wall is injured. But the last time I checked this is a seven game series and both rosters are populated with NBA players. If you want to crown the Hawks, go ahead. But I have not been impressed thus far. Washington has the talent to win the series without John Wall. Paul Pierce certainly thinks so (and he gathered his teammates in the locker room after Game 2 to tell them as much). Here are five things Washington can do to win Game 3.

#1) Bench Nene.

Conventional wisdom says Nene needs to step up in Wall’s absence. The opposite is true. Nene should be benched. Completely. He should not play another minute in the series. Washington is playing with one hand tied behind its back with Nene on the court. The Wizards are spotting Atlanta double-digit leads for no reason. It’s not just that Nene has been bad. He’s been laughably bad on offense and has absolutely no shot at covering Paul Millsap—the player he is assigned to guard for the first five-eight minutes of every half.

There is a decent chance Washington would have lost to Atlanta even with John Wall due to Randy Wittman’s stubborn, Scott Brooks-esque reliance on Nene. Without Wall, there is almost no chance the Wizards can dig themselves out of the unnecessary deficits.

#2) Play Humphries, Play Humphries, PLAY HUMPHRIES.

Kris Humphries is the one player on the roster who has both the lateral quickness and upper body strength to contend with Millsap. Yet he inexplicably rots on the bench. Wittman has tried five different defenders on Millsap (Nene, Marcin Gortat, Drew Gooden, Paul Pierce, and Otto Porter). Millsap bulldozes the weaker ones (Pierce, Porter, Gooden) and runs right around the larger ones (Nene, Gortat). At first, I thought there might be some obscure rule on the NBA books prohibiting the matchup, like those laws you hear about—”It is illegal in Maryland for lions to attend the theatre.” But photographic evidence proved otherwise.


[photo credit: AP Photo/Steven Senne]

But it’s not just about covering Millsap. Humphries can also cover Al Horford and Pero Antic. The power forward rotation should be Gooden, Pierce and Humphries, and Kris should get all backup center minutes. Humphries gives the Wizards exactly what they need—offensive rebounds, toughness in the paint, a big man who can show on picks, switch onto perimeter players when needed, bang on the boards, and adequately spread the floor with 18 foot jumpers.

#3) Run the Offense Through Paul Pierce.

We all knew the offense would look very different in Game 2 without John Wall. Gone were the easy transition buckets, wide open 3-point looks and high-percentage bunnies from Gortat on the pick and roll. Luckily, Washington has a guy on the roster with 17 years of Hall of Fame caliber experience manufacturing points. Use him.

Pierce has already played the hero multiple times during these playoffs, but it is almost always through 3-point shooting. All of Washington’s half-court sets seem to end with Beal catching the ball off a curl moving away from the basket or—in the absence of Wall—Beal awkwardly dribbling the ball all alone at the top of the key until the dwindling shot clock prompts him to improvise. That’s not going to create enough points to match the Hawks well-oiled offensive machine.

Wittman needs to call a steady dose of post-up for Pierce at the elbow. That’s his bread and butter. Pierce can hit a slow-motion fade-away elbow jumper in his sleep and when he’s not hitting shots, he’s drawing fouls. You remember when Andre Miller was here and the second team offense consisted of the Professor walking the ball up the court and lobbing it to Kevin Seraphin while the other three players watch him back down for a jump hook? That’s what should happen ten times per game with Pierce at the elbow.

#4) Play Ramon Sessions 48 Minutes.

When Sessions rested in Game 2, Wittman turned to a no-point guard lineup of Garrett Temple, Beal, Porter, Gooden and Nene. That cannot happen again. Repeat after me: Temple is not a point guard, Temple is not a point guard, Temple is not a point guard.

If Ramon needs a rest, then call a time-out. If you have no time-outs, then spill a cup of water on the court. If you are out of water, then put Will Bynum in.

#5) Play With Energy and Effort.

Ok, I threw that in for Wittman. But there is some truth to the power of “energy” and “effort” in this particular situation. The Wall injury was a blow to the Wizards, but it also affects Atlanta.  With everyone, including almost all Wizards fans, already handing the series win to Atlanta, the Hawks are going to lose their edge. It’s human nature.

Usually, teams in Washington’s position would fold (like Toronto this year and Chicago last year). But if the Wizards can follow Pierce’s lead and continue to believe they can win the series, Washington can turn Wall’s injury into a psychological advantage. A hustling, hungry team has an edge over one that presumes victory is a foregone conclusion. Washington already showed it won’t fold in Game 2, and that was only an hour after hearing the devastating news of Wall’s injury. Now Washington has had three days to prepare for life without Wall.

It’s not over until the fat lady sings and I don’t hear any music. Who’s with me? I know Glenn Consor is.


Adam Rubin on EmailAdam Rubin on Twitter
Adam Rubin
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Adam grew up in the D.C. area and has been a Washington Bullets fan for over 25 years. He will not refer to the franchise as anything other than the Bullets unless required to do so by Truth About It editorial standards. Adam spent many nights at the Capital Centre in the ‘90s where he witnessed such things as Michael Jordan’s “LaBradford Smith game,” the inexcusable under-usage of Gheorghe Muresan’s unstoppable post moves, and the basketball stylings of Ledell Eackles.