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.
-- 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.