ATLANTA – The closeout game on the road is supposed to be the toughest, and though the Wizards made it look easy most of the way Friday they found out just how tough it can be vs. the Atlanta Hawks.
They almost blew most of a 22-point lead and had to weather a furious comeback that trimmed their lead to as little as 93-90 in the fourth quarter before pulling away to take the series with a 115-99 victory at Phillips Arena. It was their first road win of the first-round series won by Washington 4-2.
Bradley Beal (31 points) and John Wall (playoff career-high 42 points, eight assists) dominated from the outset and had enough of their role players show up with them. They went into halftime leading 65-46 only to lose their edge until Wall shut down the Hawks' momentum single-handedly.
After Beal’s turnover, he chased down Dennis Schroder (26 points, 10 assists) to block him at the rim to prevent the lead being trimmed to one. Wall then broke down the defense, got into the paint and made an incredible bank shot in traffic and a mid-range pull up to push the Wizards ahead 97-90 with 7:33 left.
Wall and Beal got them out to front in a game they never trailed but allowed Atlanta back into hit after scoring 36 third-quarter points. Coach Mike Budenholzer went to a smaller lineup and spread the floor to get clutch threes from Kent Bazemore (nine points) and Jose Calderon (six points) off the bench.
The Hawks only trailed 46-42 on a shot from Taurean Prince (four points) in the second quarter but the Wizards ended the half on a 19-4 run behind tenacious defense that created easy buckets.
Markieff Morris (17 points, eight rebounds, three blocks) had his best outing since Game 1, Bojan Bogdanovic (10 points) was a spark off the bench and Otto Porter (eight points, eight rebounds) had a workmanlike effort on both ends as he hit 2 of 4 threes and created problems for Atlanta withh his defensive pressure.
Paul Millsap (31 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists) and Schroder led Atlanta but didn’t get much from anyone other than Tim Hardaway (13 points) and Dwight Howard (nine points, seven rebounds) as he had most of his production in the first quarter.
Wall had 19 points in the fourth. He combined with Beal to shoot 27-for-42 overall, or 64.2%.
– Coach Scott Brooks opted to go with a small lineup in the fourth quarter, using Bogdanovic instead of Marcin Gortat as Howard stayed parked on the bench.
– Calderon cut the deficit to 93-90 for Atlanta but that’s when the fun began. Wall had the chasedown and a series of jumpers. Beal also made a jumper off a curl and Wall drained another for a 106-97 lead and made sure anyone in earshot knew about it.
– Kelly Oubre had five steals by halftime. He was put on Schroder along with Porter and their length bothered him. As a team, the Wizards had 11 steals in the first 24 minutes. Oubre gave Schroder fits in their last regular-season game. Porter also had a key strip of Millsap on a post-up of Morris that negated a possession. In all, the Hawks had 22 turnovers that led to 27 points for Washington.
– Morris made a concerted effort to keep his hands to himself and allowed Millsap to have some shots that he was contesting in the previous games. Morris went to the locker room with no fouls and even though Millsap had 14 points he countered with 13 of his own on 5-for-7 shooting.
– The Hawks have been loading the paint at every turn, even in transition, if it means keeping Wall from the rim. It has allowed shooters to walk into spot ups that they’ve missed all series but the Wizards made them pay for it. Porter, Morris, Beal, Bogdanovic and Oubre combined to go 6-for-10 in the first half alone. Bazemore and Schroder ran at Wall to slow him down on a push. He threw it ahead to Beal on a corner spot up for an 84-65 lead.
– For the first time, the Hawks tried to play through Howard in the post and even though he got off to a good start by making 3 of 4 shots it’s a recipe for failure. No one else on the floor is a threat because he’s not a creator. Howard had five turnovers in just 22 minutes played. Bazemore, an unreliable ballhandler to shocked the Wizards with seven assists in a Game 4 win for Atlanta, had seven turnovers himself. Millsap was forced into six.
– Gortat made his first shot, his second attempt of the game, at 6:42 of the third quarter. The Hawks continued to take away his dives to the basket and he was content to do the dirty work to make the offense run such as sealing Howard to prevent him from contesting shots in the paint and getting tap outs for extra possessions. Howard had the better stats again. Gortat, who only played 18 minutes because of the small ball, had the more effective game.
– Jason Smith only played 11 minutes after he left Game 5 with a hyperextended knee. He was a game-time decision and didn’t appear any worse for wear but the Wizards didn’t rely on him to log too many minutes. Morris didn’t pick up a first-half foul made it more likely that he’d play extended time to protect Smith longer term. Smith was 0-for-1. Morris played 40 minutes.