ATLANTA -- The first true shots fired in a seven-game series don't come from the budding rivalry between Paul Millsap and Markieff Morris. It comes when the visiting team wins. That hasn't occured between the Wizards and Atlanta Hawks just yet as both have held serve on their own floors.
Saturday's 116-98 victory by Atlanta trims the series deficit to 2-1, with a pivotal Game 4 at Phillips Arena on Monday.
Sometimes to win on the road in the postseason, it requires winning ugly. The Wizards got half of it right with the ugly part, except they lost.
"We just weren't defending," said Bradley Beal, who had just 12 points on 6-for-20 shooting that included missing all six three-point looks. "We had a lot of great looks, a lot of missed shots but we still gave ourselves a chance to win defensively. We didn't do it. We got to be better. We know we got to defend in order to win."
Dennis Schroder had 27 points as he got into the paint on a regular basis. Paul Millsap had 29 points and 14 rebounds as he did all of his work in the trenches. The Hawks won the battle of rebounds (50-42), shooting (49.4%-41.6%) and forced the action as evidenced by foul shots attempted (32-20).
The Wizards have yet to play anywhere close to their best basketball in the series. Beal hasn't shot well at all. He's 27-for-68, or 39.7%. From three-point range, he's 6-for-27, or 22.2%.
There hasn't been anything unique happening to cause him to sputter. The Hawks aren't trapping him. They're soft on their coverages with the help off screens. They're more concerned about packing the paint to prevent finishes at the rim by Beal and John Wall.
It all goes back, however, to the lack of defense that plagued Washington in Game 3. Schroder, for instance, isn't a shooter despite his 6-for-8 start. He went 4-for-14 after the first quarter.
"We were doing our concepts. They were knocking down shots," Beal said. "We didn't necessarily think everybody would make it. We live with some. Some we don't. We have to know our personnel a little bit better. We got to do better pressuruing the ball. We weren't into the ball enough."
When the Hawks opened in D.C., they were hoping for a split in the first two games. Didn't happen. The Wizards will be content with a split, too, but if that doesn't happen they still will have the home-court edge.
[RELATED: Is John Wall a top five point guard?]