How the Wizards Shaped a Game 5 Win Over the Hawks | Wizards Blog Truth About

How the Wizards Shaped a Game 5 Win Over the Hawks

Updated: April 27, 2017

The Wizards took survived escaped a pivotal (potentially pivotal) Game 5 in their first round NBA Playoffs series against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday evening. Here’s how they shaped that victory over the course of the contest.

First of all…

* The refs, who have been more noticeable in this series than necessary, seemed content to let the players feel each other out in the early going, which is a good thing. The two teams actually combined for 16 points (9-7 Hawks) in the first two minutes … and then 186 points over the next 46 minutes, whatever that means (8 points per minute versus 4 points per minute).

* Each team was called for four fouls in the first quarter and Dennis Schroder was the only one who picked up two fouls, which wasn’t such a bad thing for the Hawks Saturday night in Game 4. Markieff Morris also sort of baited counterpart Paul Millsap into an early foul — Morris might have flailed his arms as the duo got equally tangled — but that would later swing in Millsap’s favor. Also noted: each team only shot two free throws in the first quarter; Tim Hardaway, Jr. went 0-for-2 and Jason Smith went 1-for-2.

“I think when you try to exploit matchups constantly it usually doesn’t work in your favor,” said Scott Brooks after Washington’s Game 4 loss, per CSN’s J. Michael. And the Wizards seemed to stay true to their coach’s preference to start Game 5. They earnestly tried to get the ball in the right spots — one result: eight assists on 10 made field goals for the Wizards. But the Hawks, who also thrive on ball movement in Mike Budenholzer’s offense, were not too far behind (7 assists on 11 made field goals), even if they did rely more on matchup exploitation, i.e., letting Millsap try to do this thing (6 points, 3-5 FGs in this first).

Final things about the first period:

  • Morris lost himself in the need to help rebound a few times but it didn’t take long to re-remember that Marcin Gortat needed assistance versus Dwight Howard.
  • Schroder opened 3-for-3 from 3-point land, which the Wizards figured they’d live with until he started squatting and the rent was due, i.e., they made a halftime adjustment.
  • For most of the game, to the layman’s eyes, the Wizards seemed like they were determining when to switch on defense on the fly, which resulted in miscommunication, especially when Bradley Beal and Brandon Jennings were attempting to navigate screening action between Jose Calderon and Kent Bazemore, which disappointingly did not work out in Washington’s favor.

25-23, Hawks.

Second Quarter!

* Something we have learned (or maybe something Scott Brooks has learned): maybe don’t try to pair John Wall with Brandon Jennings. OK, so maybe you have to do it sometimes when you only have a three-guard playoff rotation. But at least don’t turn to the Wall-Jennings combo first, and so that did not happen on Wednesday. In this game, Beal and Jennings were plus-1 in nine minutes and Wall and Jennings were plus-2 in seven minutes. Take that for data? For the series, however, Beal-Jennings: plus-10 in 37 minutes, and Wall-Jennings: minus-15 in 27 minutes.

The gist: I think you have to put the ball in Beal’s hands to create earlier rather than later in the game. There were times (end of the first quarter) when Beal drove and created a corner 3 (for Kelly Oubre), there were times where Beal simply turned the ball over off the dribble, and there were times where Beal didn’t make the perfect decision but still earned a trip to the free throw line. You live with it.

* Key stretch: the Hawks went up 34-27 after a Tim Hardaway, Jr. 3-pointer at the 8:50 mark and Brooks called a timeout. After that timeout, the coach drew up a solid play to get Bojan Bogdanovic a nice look — he pump-faked at the arc, took a dribble, pulled-up wide open, and missed. But that’s OK, ‘cause Otto Porter got the offensive rebound and hit a long 2. On the other end, Bogdanovic ripped the ball cleanly from Taurean Prince and followed that with a sweet, James Harden-esque side-step 3-pointer. The Wizards were back within two points 55 seconds after that timeout.

New advanced-ish stat: how teams do within 60 seconds after their coach calls a timeout.

* Final, second quarter thought: at whatever point when the matchups would have made one figure that Bogdanovic would check Millsap (he did a few times), it was Otto instead. At which point one tidbit of Washington’s strategy became apparent: run a second defender at Millsap immediately to get the ball out of his hands. And even if he moved the ball quickly (maybe too quickly), giving the Hawks a better chance to get an open look, it more often than not seemed to work out for Washington.

Brooks on doubling Millsap after the game:

“We wanted to try to save Kieff from getting in foul trouble – I don’t know if that strategy worked. Might have to go back and try something else. I thought it did work a few possessions. It’s something that we talked about and worked on and I give our guys a lot of credit, they executed it, it took them a little bit out of their rhythm. Millsap is a handful – he’s so crafty, he gets our guys in foul trouble. We have to somehow counter that and tonight was one of the ways we can counter that.”

50-49, Wizards.

The Third.

* With both Morris and Millsap carrying three fouls into halftime, I was curious about how, and if, each coach would try to exploit that fact. Millsap missed a 16-foot baseline fade-away to start the third period, and Morris, smartly, probably, didn’t bother to contest much. Of course, Morris picked up his fourth foul at the 9:27 mark, and Jason Smith checked-in for him. Smith would later get hurt near the end of the third and would not return (calf contusion it was called during the game, Brooks called it a strain after the game). Morris, for his part, picked up a cheap foul and an even cheaper technical in the fourth which allowed Atlanta to cut a 91-98 deficit to four points with three minutes left. Morris finished with 8 points, 5 points, 5 fouls, and zero free throws or 3-pointers attempted in 20 minutes. Oh well.

* The third quarter did not stand out, particularly, even if the Wizards did scored 33 points in the period, the only quarter span they topped 30. Wall, Beal, and Porter, who combined for 64 points (30 in the first half) scored 17 of their point total in the first four and a half minutes of the third (27 in the period in total), which was key to getting Atlanta on their heels a bit.

* Actually, what stood out was just a sickening John Wall dunk. Let us pray.

“Whenever I get to my right foot, I like my chances against anybody,” said Wall, simply, when asked about the jam afterward.

* Otherwise, the Wizards limited Millsap to six points in the third with their continued doubling strategy, which was just a piece of the overall strategy on the four-time All-Star — they threw a bunch of dudes at Millsap, even Gortat! And it pretty much worked!

* Also: Otto Porter scored 10 of his 17 points in the period, hitting both 3-pointers and going 4-for-4 on free throws. One of his most gangly drives ever seen targeted Dwight Howard in the open court, and Porter, embarrassingly to Dwight, earned a trip to the line.

83-79, Wizards. 


* Something that makes our entire lives worth it — depending on who you are! Not speaking for myself! With the Wizards crafting an 86-83 hanger, Brandon Jennings picked Jose Calderon’s pocket and caught a wave up the court for a layup. Mere seconds later he yoked Calderon with a behind-the-back dribble, darted into the lane, and found Bogdanovic (cutting like a young Otto Porter), who hit a reverse layup that probably won’t get credited for being as sweet — or more so — than Jennings’ behind the back Scooby-doo. When Jennings later checked out, the crowd cheered. They really did. But I was not sure if it was more for Jennings’ spurt or for Gortat scoring for the first time all game, at the free throw line, which happened to be his first free throw attempts of the series. What a world.

* Some moments later, Beal threw a five-foot Paul Millsap shot attempt into the stratosphere — that whole immediately run a double a Millsap thing (Bogdanovic was guarding him this time). And right after that, Kelly Oubre righteously passed up an open corner 3 off solid Wizards ball movement to throw down a baseline jam while Dwight Howard gazed, slow-footed and dumb-founded.

* But, a few careless Wizards turnovers would not let Atlanta go quietly into the night. The Hawks would get within three points, 91-94, before Washington got up seven (thanks to a very mature, use that panda body maneuver by Beal). Then neither team scored for 75 seconds, then Atlanta went on a run to get back within two points (thanks to the aforementioned Morris foul-technical combo). And then Beal put the team on his back, hitting a calculated, Randy Wittman midrange ball jumper as Schroder expressed frustration about Millsap’s help defense, or lack thereof. Beal followed with perhaps the best (situational) blocked shot of his career in rejecting a one-on-one Millsap drive against him.

* Did I mention that it was mostly Beal, and not John Wall, who was tasked with guarding Schroder down the stretch? Yea, that was a thing. And another thing was that Wall seemed dog-tired, or spent, or something was just off during a large stretch of the second half. But, shucks, there was Wall, hitting a pull-up, 21-foot jumper with all the space that Atlanta could afford him (and more) to put Washington up 103-99 with 47 seconds left, effectively dagger-ing the game.

103-99, Wizards.

And so that’s it. The series hasn’t even started yet, because no road team has won yet. Maybe the series will never even start and the Wizards will take it in seven games; maybe series will start on Friday evening if the Wizards win a close-out game in Atlanta. Until then…

Oh yea, Joe Biden was at the game.


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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 currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.