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Takeaways from Wizards' Game 2 win over Atlanta Hawks behind John Wall's big night

Takeaways from Wizards' Game 2 win over Atlanta Hawks behind John Wall's big night

As entertainment value goes, there was no rhythm, painful poor shooting and a plethora of whistles that “refs you suck” chants became the most entertaining part of Game 2 between the Wizards and Atlanta Hawks at Verizon Center on Wednesday

The uneven affair ended in a 109-101 as the Wizards took a 2-0 lead in front of another sellout of 20,356. Game 3 takes place Saturday at Phillips Arena.

The Wizards led by as many as 10 points in the first half but were undone by foul trouble across the board. It wasn’t until Bradley Beal’s three midway through the fourth quarter to give them a 91-89 lead did they pull away.

John Wall (32 points, nine assists, five rebounds) kept Washington ahead most of the game as they took a 51-43 lead at the half despite just eight fast-break points.

As fouls disrupted Scott Brooks’ rotations, the Wizards finally were able to create separation near the end. Beal (31 points) and Marcin Gortat (14 points, 10 rebounds, five blocks) carried the offense along with Brandon Jennings (10 points).

Jennings has a series of jumpers and an assist to Jason Smith (eight points, eight rebounds) to get the score tied at 84 for the final push.

But it was a jumper by Wall off of Gortat’s screen and a dunk off a turnover by Atlanta for a 103-98 lead with 65 seconds left.

Paul Millsap (27 points, 10 rebounds) led Atlanta, with Dennis Schroder (23 points), Taurean Prince (12 points) and Kent Bazemore (eight points) contributing.

--The Hawks’ first major adjustment was moving Millsap to center and when they came back to take a 24-23 lead at the end of the first quarter it was jump-started that way. Millsap made a bank shot, assisted Bazemore on a make and had a steal that cut a 10-point deficit in half quickly. They also played Millsap as the five in the fourth while Dwight Howard (six points, seven rebounds) only logged 20 minutes.

[RELATED: Brooks goes 1-on-1 to talk the edge Morris brings to Wizards]

-- After 21 turnovers in Game 1, Atlanta had 18. A giveaway in the final minute is how Wall made it a two-possession game. The Wizards scored 23 points on them.

--Jennings went back to being an open door on defense. Schroder and Bazemore had simple drivebys to get to the rim that allowed Atlanta to lead by as much as four in the first quarter. Jose Calderon (two points) is a much better matchup for Jennings, who can better stay in front of him and isn’t at a significant strength disadvantage. Schroder went immediately by Jennings for a layup, then made two free throws, two free throws for Bazemore and consecutive layups for Schroder. To start the fourth, Mike Muscala (two points) got a dunk because Smith had to help Jennings for allowing Calderon in the paint. Morris got his fifth foul in similar fashion, after Jennings gambled for a reacharound on Tim Hardaway (19 points) to prevent a dunk.

--Beal had his share of open shots and mismatches but was indecisive. He hesitated on at least three open looks in the first half. Then late in the second quarter he had Muscala on a mismatch at the arc, held the ball and got off an awkward shot in the lane that wasn’t close. It continued in the third when Beal missed a shot in the lane and then passed on an open look to Smith who missed the corner jumper. Beal, however, had 14 points in the fourth.

--Howard was absent for most of the second quarter as Muscala got most of the time. Gortat had to make him pay and did. Wall continued to run the pick-and-roll and Muscala was unable to defend it (like Howard) but instead of giving up the lane jumper it was clean dives to the rim. On two occasions, Millsap was late as the 2 vs. 1 coverage on the ballhandler (Wall) couldn’t prevent the pass.

--The shooting was terrible. In the first half, the teams combined to go 32-for-85 from the field, or 37%. The Hawks were 0-for-8 on threes. They ended 4-for-20, or 20%.

--After complaints from Millsap about Game 1 being too physical – and around the league others upset with game officials being too passive – the first half alone had 29 fouls called. Bojan Bogdanovic (six points), Morris and Otto Porter (four points) had three each. Muscala had three for Atlanta. The free throws attempted were almost even, an 18-16 edge for the visitors. The third quarter, however, was an ugly affair. Porter had to leave after his fourth foul just 1:40 had elapsed. Morris earned his fourth foul two minutes later. Howard picked up his fourth at 7:30, Smith’s came at 3:38 and Bazemore got his at 1:37. There were 55 total fouls called that led to 71 free throws.

--The Wizards ran plays immediately for Porter out of halftime but his foul trouble prevented him for doing much. Through three quarters he shot just 1-for-4, his only bucket coming on a dunk in transition.

--The transition game was limited for the Wizards because there were numbers back and contesting at the rim every time Wall pushed. But that left shooters open on the kickouts. The Wizards didn’t maximize their chances to make them pay as Porter was scoreless (0-for-2) and Beal (4-for-11) off rhythm.

--The biggest assist of the game may have come in the third quarter when Smith held back Beal as he was going at crew chief Marc Davis over a call. A delay of game was assessed.

[RELATED: Wizards like to have enforcer Morris on their side: 'He's not scared of anybody']

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5 observations about the Wizards at the midway point of the 2019-20 season

5 observations about the Wizards at the midway point of the 2019-20 season

The Wizards' 29-point loss to the Raptors on Friday night was the 41st game of the year, meaning Washington's 2019-20 regular season is officially halfway through.

With that in mind, here are five observations from the season so far; some expected and some unexpected...

They are who we thought they were

In some ways, this season has gone exactly how most thought it would. Bradley Beal has been an All-Star level player, but poor defense and an inexperienced roster around him has led to a team headed safely towards the lottery. They are 13-28 after 41 games, meaning they are on pace to win 26 on the season.

That's about what Vegas predicted, as evidenced by over/under win totals that stayed around 28.5. And that's what most reasonable forecasts had them being; a team with intriguing talent that was probably a year away from contending for the playoffs again.

Sheppard has found some guys

The early returns on the Tommy Sheppard era are good and that should be seen as one of the most important positives of this season so far. Just look at the gems he has acquired in a relatively short period of time as general manager. He drafted Rui Hachimura, a plug-and-play guy, with the ninth overall pick. He got Davis Bertans, Moe Wagner and Isaac Bonga in trades basically for nothing. 

He got Garrison Mathews out of nowhere. He signed Ish Smith instead of giving more money to Tomas Satoransky. And even his minor deals with guys like Anzejs Pasecniks and Gary Payton II have impressed to a degree.

It is very early in his tenure, but Sheppard is showing he has the ability to find diamonds in the rough, a skill that is one of the biggest separators between GMs.

It has also become evident on social media that Sheppard is gaining some clout among fans. Given the previous distrust in the front office, that is definitely worth noting.

The injuries have been ridiculous

Though injuries happen to every team and they are ultimately no excuse, the health of the Wizards has undoubtedly been a major part of their season to this point. They have had as many as eight players missing at times due to injury, or in other words more than half of their roster.

That has included two hardship exceptions and the players acquired as a result were even starting at times. Their best players have been hurt, even Beal who had previously played 194 straight games. Lately, they have been getting healthy, but the rash of injuries was enough to leave its mark on their 2019-20 campaign as a whole.

Beal may or may not be sold on the future

Though this season has mostly gone as expected, it has been fair to wonder how Beal has handled it all, given he is far and away their best player. He signed a contract extension to be part of this, but he's used to winning more games and it's only natural for him to be frustrated with how things have gone.

Beal backed up those theories with his comments this week about the team's culture, and the whole situation is going to be worth watching closely moving forward. The Wizards' best player appears to be a bit anxious about the franchise's future. Whether they can match their timeline to contend with his remains to be seen.

The Wall thing is going to get interesting

This was also pretty easy to call going into this season. Now over 11 months into his recovery from a ruptured Achilles, John Wall is making steady progress towards a return and the debates of whether he should come back this season or not are coming into focus. 

The discourse was taken up a notch recently with NBC Sports Washington's report about him playing in three-on-three scrimmages, and then again days after with video of those games. Though he isn't quite ready to come back, he is looking good and there are still three months remaining in the Wizards' season. 

Will he be ready one month from now, or two? Even if he is, will the Wizards bring him back or wait until next season? Those are major questions with no easy answers.

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Wizards committed more turnovers against the Raptors than they have in any game in 25 years

Wizards committed more turnovers against the Raptors than they have in any game in 25 years

Whether it's good or bad, nothing the Wizards do is subtle. 

They'll score a million points and give up two million points. They'll beat the Heat, Nuggets and Celtics without Bradley Beal but also blow an 18-point fourth quarter lead to the Bulls. 

The Wizards had some turnover issues Friday night, but again, they're never subtle. 

Washington committed 28 turnovers on the way to a 29-point loss. Following the first seven minutes of play, the Wizards had seven turnovers and seven points. 

The last time the Wizards turned the ball over that much was April 2, 1994, in a 104-96 win over the Bucks. The last time an NBA team turned it over 28 times? The 2010 Suns. 

Nine Wizards players had multiple turnovers, while five players had at least three. 

Following Bradley Beal's comments criticizing the team's culture and need to develop winning habits, the Wizards' response left more than enough to be desired. Credit the Raptors defense utilizing their length and ball pressure to take advantage of when the Wizards were loose with the ball, but it takes more than good defense to turn it over 28 times. 

The bright side is this was an uncharacteristic performance for the Wizards. They currently average the 10th-fewest turnovers per game in the NBA, so there's a good chance they clean things up on Monday against the Pistons. 

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