DC Council Round 2, Game 3: Wizards vs. Hawks — A Win With a Side Dish of Truthful Lessons | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

DC Council Round 2, Game 3: Wizards vs. Hawks — A Win With a Side Dish of Truthful Lessons

Updated: May 10, 2015

Truth About It.net’s D.C. Council:
Grading Wizards players from Second Round Playoff Game No. 3:
Washington Wizards versus the Atlanta Hawks in D.C,
Contributor: Rashad Mobley from the Verizon Center.


Prior to Game 3 in Washington, TAI’s Adam Rubin wrote in his Opening Statements that there were five ways the Washington Wizards could defeat the Atlanta Hawks without John Wall. The first way was to bench Nene, the second was to play Kris Humphries, the third was to run the offense through Paul Pierce, and the fourth reason was to play Ramon Sessions 48 minutes. The fifth way Rubin mentioned the Wizards could beat the Hawks was to play with energy and effort—a tried and true staple of head coach Randy Wittman’s pre- and post-game pressers. Rubin wrote:

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.

For three quarters, and the first four and a half minutes of the fourth, the Wizards were that hustling and hungry team, while the Hawks lacked energy and urgency. Nene set the tone early and at various points during the game, his teammates followed suit. The Hawks’ offensive rhythm seemed to be disrupted by Paul Millsap’s sickness and absence from the starting lineup. Not only did they not match the Wizards’ intensity and energy, but as Kyle Korver observed after the game, “They were physical, and just pushed us around, and we didn’t respond well.”

From the 7:03 mark of the fourth quarter to Paul Pierce’s game-ending shot, the Hawks and the Wizards switched roles. The Hawks’ bench players—who were playing with proverbial house money and a 20-point deficit—took on the role of the hustling, energetic team, as they methodically destroyed the Wizards’ handiwork. Washington’s bench players, led by the little-used Will Bynum, slowed down the frenetic pace the starters had been so successfully using and played like victory was a foregone conclusion.

Hawks forward Mike Muscala tied the game with a 3-pointer at 101 with 14 seconds left, and Wittman called timeout. Then this happened:


After the game, Pierce mentioned that lessons could be gained from both losses and wins, and he hoped his team would learn the appropriate lessons from the eight minutes of sloppy fourth quarter play. But a win is a win, and right now the Wizards have two, while the Hawks have just one. Now about those grades…


Atlanta Hawks



Box Score

Washington Wizards


Nene Hilario, PF

30 MIN | 7-9 FG | 3-7 FT | 7 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 17 PTS | -12 +/-

While he was basking in the glow of his postgame heroics, Paul Pierce took the time to tell the media what he told Nene before Game 3.

“I told him before the game, ‘Big fella we going to you today, you gonna get more than three shots, you going to get more than enough opportunities, we’re going to go to you, and I want you to be aggressive,’ and I really thought he set the tone early in the game.”

Nene had a team-high eight points on 4-for-5 shooting in the first quarter, and he followed that up with five points, three rebounds, and a block in the second. Yes, the majority of his points came against Pero Antic, and not Paul Millsap ,who had given him the business in the first two games of this series, but Nene still moved with confidence on both ends of the floor and his teammates, especially Marcin Gortat, fed off of that. He was unable to maintain his effectiveness in the third and fourth quarters, but given that Nene had scored just two points in the first two games of this series, he gets a pass for the lack of offense in the second half, as well as the lazy fourth quarter closeouts.

Paul Pierce, SF

26 MIN | 5-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 13 PTS | -6 +/-

Pierce said after the game that he’d much rather save these types of game-ending heroics for later in the playoffs when the stakes were higher. But the reality is that the Wizards have not been past the second round since the late 1970s. Pierce’s heroics were needed right here and now. He had not been having the greatest of games prior to that game-ending shot, but in all fairness, his clutch services were not needed prior to that point. When the game was on the line, Coach Wittman called a play for Pierce—a play that, according to Pierce, was just put in the offense just one day earlier. Pierce waved Bradley Beal away and hit the shot with a kiss off the glass. It is also worth noting that from the 6:31 mark of the third quarter until the 8:08 mark of the fourth quarter, Pierce was resting his antiquated limbs on the bench, which means his veteran legs were fresh and ready to attack.

Marcin Gortat, C

34 MIN | 6-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 8 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 3 BLK | 0 TO | 14 PTS | +12 +/-

Marcin Gortat didn’t set the tone like Nene or hit the game winner like Pierce, but he did show the Hawks that the Wizards’ had a frontline able to compete with what Atlanta was offering. He shot just three times in the second half, but his activity level on the defensive boards, and his ability (along with Nene) to protect the paint (three blocks) were refreshing changes to the passive style of play that he’d shown in the first two games in Georgia.

Ramon Sessions, PG

35 MIN | 2-10 FG | 3-4 FT | 3 REB | 6 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 8 PTS | +3 +/-

Ramon Sessions arguably had more pressure on him than any other player on either team. He had to recreate John Wall’s pace, and guard Jeff Teague, while still trying to do the one thing he’s known for off the bench: score in bunches. Coach Wittman credited the Wizards for playing at a rapid pace for three quarters, so Sessions passed that test. But Jeff Teague repeatedly drove by him and put pressure on Washington’s bigs to protect the paint. Meanwhile, Sessions’ offense was nowhere to be found, as he scored just six points on 2-for-10 shooting. Luckily for Sessions, the other four starters, as well as Will Bynum and Otto Porter, picked up the off offensive slack. In Game 4, when the Hawks offense will presumably be clicking (it has to eventually, right?), Sessions will need to both score and defend at a more effective rate.

Bradley Beal, SG

39 MIN | 6-15 FG | 3-3 FT | 3 REB | 8 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 5 TO | 17 PTS | -4 +/-

For the second consecutive game, Beal did not shoot particularly well (6-for-15), and he was careless with the ball (five turnovers). However, Beal did have a career playoff-high seven assists in the first half, and he and Sessions (six assists) combined for the 13 total, which just so happens to be the number of assists John Wall had in Game 1. Beal was also instrumental in holding Kyle Korver to just six points on 2-for-5 shooting (and has been fantastic keeping up with Korver throughout the series). Beal fought through screens from the Hawks’ bigs to deny Korver the ball, and when he was unable to do that, he was effective at closing the distance and getting a hand in Korver’s face, who is arguably the heart of the Hawks’ offense. In the third quarter, when the Hawks were expected to close the gap and shrink the Wizards’ lead, Beal was at his very best. He scored seven points in 10 minutes of play, while holding Korver without a point or a shot attempt.

The most important thing Beal did all night (besides resist the temptation to choke Jeff Teague, who flagrantly fouled him in the second quarter) was get the hell out of the way in the closing seconds when Pierce was being guarded by Dennis Schroder on the elbow. Said Beal after the game, “Honestly I thought it was just a pin down shot. I looked at him and he yelled at me and said get out of the way. He is serious. He ended up knocking it down.”

Drew Gooden, PF

14 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 5 PTS | +9 +/-

Drew Gooden found himself in a bit of foul trouble in Game 3 (three fouls) just as he did in Game 2 (four fouls). But unlike that game when he contributed 12 points and five boards in 14 minutes of play, Gooden was not quite as effective offensively in game four. He had five rebounds and just five points in 14 minutes.To his credit, Gooden’s five points came toward the end of the third quarter, when the Hawks were attempting to cut into the Wizards’ lead and close the quarter strong. With 4:16 left, Gooden hit a 22-footer to give the Wizards a 15-point lead, and then with 1:40 left in that same quarter, his 3-pointer brought the crowd to its feet and gave the Wizards an 18-point lead.

Otto Porter Jr., SF

40 MIN | 7-15 FG | 1-2 FT | 9 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 17 PTS | +2 +/-

Shame on Paul Pierce. Before he hit the game-winning shot and told ESPN’s Chris Broussard that he “called game,” it was Otto Porter who was the star of the night, and was surely headed for that coveted podium spot. When Pierce had a stinger in his right shoulder and was forced to the bench with just 2:30 gone in the first quarter, it was Porter who picked up the slack with three points, three rebounds, and two assists. In the third quarter, it was Porter who swayed the momentum with timely dunks and 3-point shooting, and he had the crowd enthusiastically chanting Ot-to Por-ter. And after the game, when a member of the media asked Randy Wittman why Porter had played such inspired ball in Game 3, Wittman—who was critical of Porter’s lack of aggression at various points during the regular season—was nothing but complimentary: “He’s been doing that … we’d played six games in the playoffs so far, and he’s been consistently doing what he’s doing.”

Will Bynum, PG

13 MIN | 2-6 FG | 4-5 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 9 PTS | 0 +/-

Will Bynum started the second quarter in place of Sessions, and the Wizards had a 10-point lead. When Sessions re-entered the game with 6:07 left in that same quarter, the lead had increased to 12 points, thanks to Bynum’s guidance. He only scored three points in the quarter, but he pushed the ball up the floor, fought off the urge to over-dribble (like he did during the regular season), and played harassing defense on Teague. In the fourth quarter, before the Wizards’ collapse, Bynum continued his aggressive play by scoring four of his six points from the free throw line. Unfortunately, Bynum eventually reverted to his over-dribbling and quick shooting ways midway through that last quarter and was soon after replaced by Sessions, but he did his job prior to that.

After the game, Bynum told the media that he was finally completely healthy, and he had been waiting for this opportunity to shine all season.

Garrett Temple, SG

9 MIN | 0-1 FG | 3-6 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | +6 +/-

In just his second appearance since missing nearly two months with a strained hamstring, Garrett Temple was uncharacteristically aggressive on the offensive end of the floor. He did not hit a field goal, but he had six free throw attempts (of which he made only three) in just nine minutes of play, while doing yeoman’s work on defense.

Randy Wittman

The pressure to perform well in Game 3 shifted from the Wizards’ players to their head coach thanks to Randy Wittman’s spirited, and perhaps calculated, rant against the Washington Post’s Michael Lee. His players were loose, they executed perfectly for three quarters, and they played like they were supposed to win regardless of whether John Wall was on the floor or not. Wittman told the media before the game that his big men needed to be more aggressive, and the coach helped their cause by making a concerted effort to call plays for both Gortat and Nene in the first quarter, which also set the tone for the rest of the night.

When Hawks’ Coach Budenholzer went small and began to run roughshod over the Wizards’ bench, Wittman immediately re-inserted his starting lineup in the game (which didn’t help much), instead of waiting to see if his bench players could hold the Hawks off. Most importantly, Wittman (and his staff) continued to shake off the regular season perception that they could not make adjustments on the fly. The play that resulted in the game-winning shot by Paul Pierce was put into the offense the day before the game. Coach Wittman knew the Hawks were switching on the high screens, so he called the play for Pierce knowing a smaller man—in this case Dennis Schroder—would be guarding Pierce. The play worked, the Wizards won (albeit in a far more difficult fashion than they wanted), and the greatest trick Wittman ever pulled was (seemingly) convincing the world that his Friday afternoon rant did not exist.

 Post-Game Video, via Twitter.

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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.