ATLANTA -- The Wizards can take solace in that they haven't played anywhere near their best game and lead the series with the Atlanta Hawks, but tonight can make or break either team. The emphasis has been on defense going into Game 4, an area where Bradley Beal has prospered individually but slacked off team-wise.
"I feel like if I'm not going to shoot the ball, you're not going to shoot the ball," Beal said of his matchup with Tim Hardaway, who he has held to 10-for-34 shooting. "That's been my mind-set. I can't solely focus on him because my helpside defense hasn't been good because of that mindset of mine. I got to get out that selfish mentality. Get back to playing team ball."
Beal is hardly the only one to slip. John Wall and Brandon Jennings couldn't keep the ball out of the paint in their individual matchups. Dennis Schroder, who is not knowing for his stroke from distance, started 6-for-8 from the field.
It debilitated into a one-man show with Wall dropping a game-high 29 points. It wasn't until Beal had four points in the fourth quarter that he joined him in double figures. No other started reached that level, with Markieff Morris, Otto Porter and Marcin Gortat combining to shoot 8-for-25 en route to a 116-98 loss.
"We didn't have that same urgency we had the first two games. Give them credit they outplayed us," said coach Scott Brooks. " That first quarter they had a lot of good shots. We gave them a lot of good opporutnities to have a lot of good shots. We gave up a lot of easy shots that first quarter. Thirty-eight points. You can have a bad shooting start but you shouldn't be down nearly 20 points if you have the defensive mentality we have to have to win a playoff series."
Sunday, the Wizards didn't delve too deep into the film. After about 90 minutes of practice time, they sat down with the coaching staff to revisit what took place. The Hawks scored 60 points in the paint but didn't do anything special to knock them off their game. They missed open looks and allowed it to affect them on the other end.
"We watched the first six or seven minutes of the game. There were no complaints about our offense," Brooks said. "We had a lot of pretty good looks. I can't complain about that. What I can complain about is the defense we had. We gave them a lot of opportunties in transition. We fouled. And ones, open threes, I think they got eight layups in that first quarter."
The Wizards weren't in the passing lanes. They didn't force the Hawks out of the operational zone in front of the basket, failing to deny passing lanes aggressively and disrupt the motion offense. They failed to cover the pick-and-roll properly, with Beal being among the biggest culprits when it comes to rotating to help stop Dwight Howard's dives.
"We do want to do a better job of guarding the ball. Not just him," Brooks said of Wall's matchup with Schroder. "The ball was loose the entire first quarter with all of their players. It's not just John. The ball was very comfortable, let's just say that."
Otto Porter had to leave the game in the second half with a stinger in his neck that came after a collision. He should be OK to start tonight.
"It's just mind-set. Everybody has to be on the same string," Porter said. "Sticking to our game plan defensively, just coming out and playing hard."