Four big picture questions heading into Game 2 including health of John Wall and Bradley Beal, lineup changes, Otto Porter's role and remembering what Paul Pierce said about the Hawks at the same time he said "It" about the Raptors.
The Wizards won Game 1, meaning they'll return home with nothing less than a coveted split after two games. Therefore, should they consider sitting the banged up duo of John Wall and Bradley Beal?
The Los Angeles Clippers won the series opener at Houston on Monday without an injured Chris Paul. On "Inside the NBA," Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith both stated Paul should continue resting the hamstring he injured in Saturday's Game 7 win over San Antonio. "I don't play Chris. I don't play Chris at all," Barkley stated. "You got a free game coming up. ...Now you're looking at your next game is Friday. He'll be off almost a week."
Wall (swollen left hand) and Beal (sprained right ankle) were banged up Sunday. If they sit out Game 2, they would have five days off before Saturday's Game 3. The Wizards already snatched away home court advantage. Why not give one or both of you stars time to rest their various ailments?
Truth is no reasonable argument for sitting the starting guards will matter to those kids. The pattern has been set, particularly this season (think about those ankle injuries Wall dealt with in January/February). If trainers clear Wall and Beal to play, they will. Both are young and fearless and don't worry about tomorrow when there is a game today. The various adults within the organization appear to have the same stance.
Does Otto Porter receive the full breadth of this postseason opportunity if Garrett Temple was healthy from the start?
Temple is something of a security blanket for regular season Randy Wittman, especially when defense is required. Considering three-guard lineups were viable against the perimeter-oriented Raptors and how Porter's role had roller coaster-esque swings during the season, good chance the coach would finds ways to get Temple minutes. Maybe even the most minutes if Porter struggled early in games.
As for Playoff Randy, the one uses Marcin Gortat in the fourth quarter and Paul Pierce at stretch-4 and has the Wizards firing off one 3-pointer after another, who knows. Clearly there is no getting Porter out of the rotation now.
Marcin Gortat and Nene aren't playing heavy minutes together in crunch time, yet share the court in the starting lineup opening the first and second halves. Should Wittman strongly consider if not actually split up the big man pairing right from the jump?
The standard starting five has a negative plus minus (-8) rating through five games. The next two five-man units with the most minutes are +16 (includes Gortat) and +8 (includes Nene) while surrendering fewer points per possession. Both have either Paul Pierce or Gooden at power forward. Having a perimeter shooter at the four helps spread the court offensively for Wall, who has been a heat-seeking missile when it comes to finding open teammates with the pass.
Lastly, Toronto in Game 3 and Atlanta in Game 1 jumped out to sizable leads, putting Washington into catch-up mode from the start. The Raptors were mentally fragile. The top-seeded Hawks are not. Why give them any kind of early confidence?
Now the caveat. This is an ego thing. If sitting one of them - meaning Nene - at the start of games causes any waves, forget it. Drew Gooden, who played 26 more minutes in January than anyone reading this, certainly is cool coming off the bench. Same with the low-key Porter. Besides, the Wizards are 5-0 in the postseason. Why mess with success.
Hawks big men Al Horford and Paul Millsap concur considering the way they controlled the game against Nene and Gortat. If Atlanta can actually make open shots in Game 2, look out.
Wait, didn't Paul Pierce have interesting comments before the playoffs about the Raptors and Hawks?
In fact, he did. Here's the section of Pierce's interview with ESPN beyond the now infamous "It" comment.
"We haven't done particularly well against Toronto, but I don't feel they have the 'It' that makes you worried,'' Pierce said. "There isn't a team I look at in the Eastern Conference that makes me say, 'They are intimidating, we don't have a chance.'
"As good as Atlanta is, they just don't give off that aura where we're afraid of them."
The Wizards certainly didn't play scared in Game 1 despite being on the road after a week off and trailing by double digits for long stretches. With The Truth in their side, no reason they should.