Ramon Sessions didn't have much time to react. Sure, everyone knew John Wall's swollen left wrist made him iffy for Game 2 against the Hawks. However, the stated belief from all involved had the starting point guard starting Tuesday night.
Everything changed during pre-game warm-ups. Wall was out. Sessions was in.
“It was a last minute thing, right before the game, probably 60 minutes on the clock," Sessions explained. "We decided John wasn’t going to play, so I knew right then I was going to step in."
Step up he did. Sessions attacked the basket off the dribble and drained shots from distance. He scored Washington's first 10 points of the third quarter and helped keep the Wizards in contention until the final minutes despite playing without their leading man.
In his fourth start with Washington since being acquired in February before the NBA's trading deadline, the veteran guard scored a team and season-high 21 points in the 106-90 loss.
"Just be aggressive, play my game, keep the pace going, as John (Wall) does well. Just trying to push the team like John does," Session said of his approach.
The Wizards played from behind most of the game, but tied the score at 73-73 late in the third quarter and trailed 88-83 with 6:01 remaining after Sessions split a pair of free throws. They would get no closer. Atlanta methodically pulled away as Washington went without field goal for the final the 3:15.
Many doubted whether the Wizards could keep it close that deep into the game without their All-Star guard. Instead they chugged along with contributions from all corners, including Sessions, who made his first three 3-point attempts and finished 8 of 14 from the field overall.
“[The Hawks] were keyed in on Brad (Beal) and Paul (Pierce) so much that it was giving me my shot. I was just shooting it and staying confident," said Sessions, who struggled shooting initially before finding a rhythm. "The first few didn’t go down, but I was just trying to stay aggressive."
His coach appreciated the performance, which included defending Jeff Teague. The Hawks point guard had 13 points and eight assists, but finished 3 of 12 from the field.
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"Sessions came in and did great," Randy Wittman said. "I couldn’t ask for more from him."
Wittman couldn't ask Sessions to be Wall because 1) few can and 2) the point guards may play the same position but in very different ways.
Both have the ability to drive and create scoring opportunities for themselves, especially from the free throw line. However, Wall is a true floor general with the ability to see all the angles, feed his teammates with precision and purpose. He recorded 10 or more assists in four straight games, racking up 55 total in that span.
Though not a blur with the dribble like Wall, Sessions can play with pace. He's also wise enough to know what he's not. We're talking about a competent musician versus a jazz artist capable of elite improvisation. Sessions avoided throwing daring passes cross-court or burst down the lane knowing a plan will form in mid-flight like his injured teammate. Sessions finished with a competent four assists and two turnovers.
"I was just trying to pick up from where John left off," Sessions said. "It’s hard to fill a guy’s shoes that is as great as he is. I tried to just come in and play my game.”
Whether those need filling for Game 3 is the major question as the series shifts from Atlanta to Washington.
In the interim, starters Bradley Beal, Paul Pierce and Marcin Gortat also helped pick up the slack, as did reserve forward Otto Porter. Guard Garrett Temple contributed in his first appearance since missing nearly two months with a hamstring strain.
"It wasn’t just me. Everybody had to try to step up," Sessions said. "We fell short. Atlanta played well. We have to get back in the gym and get ready for the game Saturday.”