Wizards Steal The First With A Strong Second | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wizards Steal The First With A Strong Second

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Updated: May 3, 2015
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A sanctionable use of the old Wizards logo on a good Sunday, via @LedellsPlace.

Which team had the “advantage” in Game 1? Either the Wizards with a week of rest (and the risk of rust) or the Hawks on a quick turnaround (with a side a dish of fatigue). The pendulum ultimately swung in the Wizards’ favor. Since the Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight is still fresh, it seems apropos to pepper in a few boxing analogies: The Wizards tasted the Hawks’ power, absorbed it, made the necessary defensive adjustments, and then unleashed some of their own offensive power in the second half to win the game.

The Wizards are now 5-0 in the playoffs. They won their first game against the Hawks’ starters all season. And they are 8-1 on the road in the postseason during the Randy Wittman era.

Given what the Wizards did in the Raptors series, it is easy to fire up the bandwagon and begin to fantasize about what the Eastern Conference Finals might feel like. But as both John Wall and Coach Wittman said after the final buzzer, “It’s just one game.”

How it happened: The Wizards allowed the Hawks to score 63 first-half points, shooting better than 52 percent from both the field (52.2%) and the 3-point line (52.9%). DeMarre Carroll (21 points in the half) and the rest of his colleagues seemingly had carte blanche from the field, and the Wizards were two steps slow on their rotations (especially Nene and Paul Pierce, who look severely overmatched). Coach Wittman talked about the “multiple efforts” required on defense before the game and the Wizards made the necessary adjustments in the second half: Washington held the Hawks to just 35 second-half points on 25 percent shooting from the field and 19 percent from the 3-point line.

Yes, Atlanta missed some of the very open shots they knocked down with ease in the first half (and over the course of the season), but the Wizards were contesting, fighting over screens, and, as Hubie Brown observed, they limited the Hawks to just one shot per possession (except for the six-offensive-rebound possession the Hawks had for 40 seconds toward the end of the game that resulted in zero points).

What it means: For the Atlanta Hawks, it means the woes that plagued them during the surprisingly tough series against the Brooklyn Nets have followed them to the second round. They are prone to losing double-digit leads when the outside shooting goes cold, and Jeff Teague still is not healthy enough to weave in and out of defenses the way he did during the regular season. They shot the ball as well as they could have in the first half but still lost the game to a team they beat handily this season (3-1, with the only loss coming in a game where the Hawks rested their starters). For the Wizards, it means that their dominant performance against the Toronto Raptors was much closer to the rule than it was an exception. The formula seems to be an active Bradley Beal, contributions from Otto Porter and Drew Gooden off the bench, and short bursts of domination from John Wall and Paul Pierce. Coach Mike Budenholzer, who just so happens to be the NBA Coach of the Year, will surely counter what Wittman and the Wizards did in the second half when these teams reconvene for Game 2 on Tuesday night. The Raptors quit on Dwane Casey, but the Hawks have complete trust in their leader.

Hits: Bradley Beal had 28 points and seven assists. John Wall had 18 points, 13 assists, seven rebounds, and three blocks. And Otto “Don’t Call Me Moses Malone” Porter had 10 points and 11 rebounds in 34 minutes of play.

Misses: Nene put out a Roy Hibbert stat line with zero points, three rebounds and countless blown defensive assignments. After the game, John Wall said that playoff basketball is sometimes about sacrifice and he was proud of Nene’s ability to set screens and do the dirty work. But Nene also has the ability to create contact, which could get Horford and/or Millsap in foul trouble. His lack of assertiveness prevented that from happening in Game 1.

Stat of the night: As pointed out by the Washington Post‘s Michael Lee:

What’s next: Game 2 is on Tuesday night in Atlanta and the Wizards’ fate depends largely on the healing powers of John Wall and Bradley Beal. Wall had 12 points, seven assists and five rebounds after his hand injury (he said it wasn’t his wrist), so the chances are sky-high that he will be fully operational for Game 2. But Beal was in tears when he initially left the court after turning his ankle and again toward the end of the fourth quarter when he tried (and failed) to have a substantive return. If he’s hobbled and cannot go, Otto Porter and Ramon Sessions will be counted on to continue their aggressive play in Beal’s absence. That includes scoring, driving, and keeping Kyle Korver from taking target practice. According to NBA.com and TNT’s David Aldridge, the Wizards should give serious thought to resting Beal regardless:

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Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.