ATLANTA -- Ever since Game 1, Markieff Morris has been absent. After Monday's 111-101 loss to the Atlanta Hawks that made the series even at 2, he has flirted with fouling out three times in a row.
His nine points and four rebounds in 24 minutes weren't nearly enough to help the Wizards who find themselves in a must-win spot for Game 5 Wednesday at Verizon Center. His nemesis, Paul Millsap, filled up the boxscore with 19 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in 36 minutes.
"I give them credit. They do a great job just trying to attack Keef, trying to get him in foul trouble," said John Wall, who had 22 points and 10 assists for Washington. "We got to do a better job of helping him out and not letting him get in foul trouble but also go back at Millsap on the other end and make him defend the same way. They made adjustments. We got to make adjustments."
Morris went through a demonstration at morning shootaround with Marcin Gortat and Jason Smith in hopes of keeping them out of foul trouble on Millsap, too. He prefers to attack from the left block and turn over his left shoulder to get into the paint. If he turns the opposite way to the baseline, Millsap almost always settles for the fallaway jump shot. He doesn't attack the rim.
Gortat still had five fouls. Smith picked up three.
While Morris had plenty of success in his matchup with Millsap in the regular season when the Wizards won the series 3-1, they've been agitating each other every step of the way in the playoffs. Millsap accused him of roughhouse tactics and then 55 fouls were called in Game 2.
Morris called him "crybaby" following an 18-point loss by Washington in Game 3 when Millsap went to the foul line 15 times. There were no words after Monday.
The whistles haven't been as liberal overall, but Morris is picked up his first foul at 7:50 of the first quarter and his second one 66 seconds later. The third foul came in the last three minutes of the half and Morris never could get on track.
Even two years ago when the Hawks were the No. 1 seed in the East, Phillips Arena wasn't this super-charged. Morris brought it out the extra eneregy with his needling of Millsap and for the Wizards to win the series, they'll have to win Game 5 at home Wednesday and come back to Atlanta for Game 6 on Friday.
Despite Morris' foul issues, the Hawks had their own. They lost starting point guard Dennis Schroder to three fouls in the first quarter. He didn't even play in the second quarter but they were able to turn a nine-point deficit into a 59-50 lead at halftime.
"We were supposed to take advantage then. Didn't. Then we had 15 points in the second quarter," Morris said. "They play hard."
After Dwight Howard threw down dunks on consecutive lobs from Kent Bazemore, the Wizards were botching assignments. The help wasn't there.
Morris stared at Gortat during the flurry as both looked lost. And so was the game.