Wizards-Hawks Game 1: Washington Wins, But Not Without Red Flags | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wizards-Hawks Game 1: Washington Wins, But Not Without Red Flags

Updated: April 17, 2017

As Bradley Beal said after the opening battle against Atlanta, the name of the game is to be the first to win four, and the Wizards took that initial step by defeating the Hawks 114-107 at the Verizon Center on Sunday afternoon.

John Wall scored 32 points with 14 assists and took over the game in the third quarter, when he had 15 points, four assists and the crowd in the palms of his hands. Beal stepped up in the fourth quarter, scoring 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting, after only hitting four of his 13 shots over the first three periods. And Markieff Morris had 21 points and seemingly all of them came at the expense of poor Paul “MMA” Millsap.

Even on the defensive end of the floor, where Coach Scott Brooks said before the game the Wizards needed to change their state of mind after allowing opposing offenses to play “ABA-style basketball,” his team made strides. They held the Hawks to 43.6 percent shooting and, had they not allowed a whopping 32 free throws (on 39 attempts), the Wizards probably could have put the game out of reach much earlier.

But despite the laundry list of  good points to be gleaned from Sunday’s victory over, the Wizards should be leery of a few red flags that could possibly lead to issues down the road.

John Wall’s Never-ending Quest For Respect.

John Wall accrued 15 technical fouls this season — one short of earning him a suspension — and at the root of much of his angst toward the referees is his perceived lack of respect. He was fined $15,000 earlier this month for voicing his opinion on the referees after a loss to the Utah Jazz, and even yesterday afternoon against the Hawks he came dangerously close to getting at least two technicals during animated conversations with the referees. Perhaps that’s to be expected during Game 1 of the playoffs, when Wall and the Wizards were trying to set the tone.

But in the second quarter, when Washington’s bench failed to keep the Hawks at bay, Wall re-entered the game and seemed hell bent on getting a call, as opposed to simply getting his offense in sync.

For example, with 6:32 left in the quarter, Wall attempted to post up Dennis Schroder. He drove hard right, then tried to go behind the back and lost the ball, which led to a Taurean Prince layup and an eight-point lead for the Hawks. Wall immediately threw his hands up and implored the refs to call a foul, when in reality he simply slipped and lost the ball.

Thirty seconds after that drive, Wall drove down the lane and scored but he thought he was hit yet again, and he glared at the refs before getting back on defense. Then, at the 5:38 mark, Wall drove down the lane once more and focused more on trying to draw contact from Dwight Howard than he did on scoring an actual basket. Even Comcast SportsNet’s Phil Chenier noticed that Wall seemed to be fixated on closing the free throw disparity between the two teams.

When Wall got back on defense, he committed a foul on Schroder and immediately went to the referees and explained that he had been fouled his last trip to the basket. The refs politely shunned Wall, who responded by driving against Howard yet again to no avail. By this point, the Wizards’ offense no longer resembled the well-oiled machine it looked like early in the first quarter. They weren’t running and they committed retaliatory fouls on defense, allowing Atlanta to stay in the game.

Wall eventually returned to his normal dominant self in the second half, and the Wizards once again looked fluid on offense. But Wall’s lapses in judgement, combined with the bench’s no-show in the second quarter, kept the Hawks confident (and in the lead) going into halftime.

Tim Hardaway Jr.

At the conclusion the afternoon game, Hawks Coach Mike Budenholzer was asked why he thought the Wizards were able to hold Tim Hardaway, Jr. to just seven points — 7.5 points below his season average. Budenholzer acknowledged that the Wizards played effective defense, but he also admitted that some of Hardaway’s wounds were self-inflicted:

“You always have to give them credit, the defense. They stayed connected to him, being physical but I think Tim had some looks that we feel that he is going to make that we will take again. I think Tim will be better going into Game Two. Probably has to move better without the ball, get better separation, continue to take good shots, continue to drive it and attack the basket.”

Hardaway, who did have one highlight-reel worthy moment against Bojan Bogdanovic, missed three wide open 3-pointers in the fourth quarter which could have swung the momentum back in Atlanta’s favor. A little over a week ago when the Hawks took on the Cleveland Cavaliers, Hardaway scored 15 of the Hawks’ 31 points in the fourth quarter to help seal the victory. Chances are he will not go 2-for-11 from the field at the Verizon Center on Wednesday — and definitely not at home in Atlanta. Beal, Wall, Oubre, and whomever else is tasked with watching Hardaway must ensure that he does not easily get on track anytime soon.

The Bench.

The last time the Wizards played the Hawks, Wall and Beal combined for 50 points, but the rest of the starters scored just 27, which just so happened to be the same amount the bench contributed. Jennings had five points and six assists, Bogdanovic had five, Oubre had five, Mahinmi had four points and 10 rebounds, and Jason Smith contributed eight points.

Sunday against the Hawks, Smith was scoreless with four fouls, as was Jennings, although he did contribute five assists. Mahinmi was out with a calf strain, and Satoransky was also scoreless in just 2:06 of play. Oubre was the star of the bench with 11 points in 18 minutes, but even he only had four points at halftime and ended the second quarter with a slew of bad possessions on both ends of the floor.

When the Wizards bench first started trickling in toward the end of the first quarter, Oubre looked jittery, Jennings allowed a three-point play to Schroder, and Bogdanovic did not touch the ball. The starters spotted the bench an 11-point lead and by the end of the first quarter, that turned into a four-point deficit. Four minutes into the second quarter, the Wizards still trailed by three points and Coach Brooks was forced to re-insert his starters.

In the second half, Oubre found a bit of offensive rhythm and scored seven points, but no other member of the bench caught fire. Brooks was definitely happy with the Wizards’ victory in his post-game comments, but he voiced his concerns over the inconsistency of his bench.

On the one hand, the Wizards won their first game of the 2017 playoffs — something the Boston Celtics (top seed in the East) and the Toronto Raptors (3 seed in the East) could not do. Washington’s ability to take care of business on their home floor should be applauded.

But this Wizards team has higher expectations than winning a round or two in the playoffs. They pushed the Cavs to double-overtime in February, they beat those same Cavaliers in March, and they’ve been itching to make a mark in the playoffs since their loss to Atlanta two years ago, when John Wall’s wrist prevented him from having a significant impact on the final outcome of the series. To say the Wizards have bigger aspirations would be a supreme understatement.

In order to reach those lofty goals, Washington cannot simply be happy with eking out victories against a lower seed. They have to identify the red flags as soon as possible and shore up their weaknesses before Budenholzer and the Hawks use them to their advantage.

Not only are the Wizards fans counting on them, but the predictions of Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal are depending on them, too. But no pressure.

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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.