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Takeaways from Wizards' Game 5 win over Atlanta Hawks to take 3-2 series lead

Takeaways from Wizards' Game 5 win over Atlanta Hawks to take 3-2 series lead

The road team has yet to win a game in the series, and Wednesday held to form as the Wizards pulled out a 103-99 victory to take a 3-2 lead over the Atlanta Hawks in front of a sellout of 20,356 at Verizon Center.

Bradley Beal (27 points) and John Wall (20 points, 14 assists, six rebounds) led the way in a game that stayed close throughout between the No. 4 and 5 seeds.

Game 6 is Friday at Phillips Arena and if a Game 7 is necessary it’ll be Sunday at Verizon.

The Wizards were able to limit Atlanta’s effectiveness in the paint. After scoring 60 points there in a Game 4 win, the Hawks were held to 36.

Better support came from the role players for Washington, too, as Otto Porter (17 points) and Bojan Bogdanovic (14 points) made clutch shots.

The Wizards appeared headed to a comfortable finish up 98-91, but the Hawks made another run before Beal knocked down a jumper out of timeout and Wall hit one from the foul line to make it a two-possession game with 47.5 seconds left.

MORE WIZARDS: THE BEST PHOTOS FROM GAME 5, INCLUDING ONE OF JOHN'S JAM

Dennis Schroder (29 points, 11 assists) and Paul Millsap (21 points, 11 rebounds) had double-doubles for Atlanta which didn’t get as big of a showing from Dwight Howard (five points, 10 rebounds) because of foul trouble. Tim Hardaway (15 points) and Taurean Prince (10 points, six rebounds) contributed but they didn’t get much from the other players on the roster.

Kent Bazemore and Jose Calderon, who combined for 26 points and 12 assists in Game 4, had just a total of eight points and three assists.

[RELATED: Joe Biden sits courtside at Wizards-Hawks playoff game]

--A third scorer emerged in Porter, who had an outburst to begin the third quarter to spark a 10-2 run. Porter consecutive two threes and a pair of foul shots as the lead grew to 69-58 but it quickly evaporated as Hardaway knocked down long-range shots. Porter only needed four shots to get his 17 points, getting to the foul line 10 times.

--The Wizards called a few postups for Gortat that were not successful as they cut the deficit to 86-83. When they went to Millsap at the five with10:20 left in the game, Gortat had his way again with the forward. He didn’t score much himself but didn’t need to do so. He set screens that allowed the guards to get into the paint without rim protection to thwart their attack. Gortat finally got his first foul shots of the series on a drive to the rim with 6:09, making both for a 94-89 lead. It also represented his first points of the game.

--On Millsap’s first post up on Morris, the Wizards sent Wall on a double-team to get the seal and a foul at 8:24 of first quarter. It’s a strategy that they hadn’t used during the series and Millsap ended up on the bench with three first-half fouls with 1:44 left in the half. Porter helped Smith by doubling Millsap but Gortat blew the help on Prince who had an uncontested dunk. Porter also came from the far weakside of the floor to double and the Wizards had success.

--Down 34-27, the Wizards got back in it with Howard and Millsap on the floor. During a 7-0 run, Morris played center and they got away with the undersized Porter at the four spot. By the time Gortat returned, the Wizards were up 38-36 and went into the half ahead 50-49.

--Howard was the  most aggressive that he has been all series as he ran out on shooters and came up on the ballhandler on pick-and-rolls. Howard went to the bench with four fouls with 2:34 left in the third on Beal’s drive to the basket so it came at a price.

--Bogdanovic had his best start to a game with eight first-half points on five shots. He made both of his three-pointers as well as he was pivotal in the second-quarter run. He appeared to draw a third foul on Howard but it was overturned on review when it was determined the shot clock had expired first on a drive.

--Morris still had foul trouble. He picked up his third at 5:18 of the second quarter as he made 4 of 9 shots. His third didn’t come on Millsap, however, as he helped on Howard and struck him on a dunk attempt.  Morris had a rejection of Hardaway at the rim with 3:59 left that came after Gortat swatted Schroder. Morris picked up his fifth foul – and a technical at 3:20 – when he dove to the floor for a loose ball. He dove for it along with Millsap who fell over the top of him and appeared to have a strong case to be upset.

--Up 50-45, the Hawks ended the half on a 4-0 run. Bogdanovic switched back to Prince, made him change direction with his dribble and throw a lob to Howard for a dunk. Gortat didn’t come up high enough to trap him aggressively or needed to stay pinned to his man. Prince’s ball handling is suspect and forcing him to shoot off one foot on the dribble might’ve been the better decision. 

--Jason Smith (left calf contusion) left the game in the third and didn’t return. He played 16 minutes and only made 2 of 9 shots for five points.

[RELATED: Wall gave away his Game 4 jersey to NFL Pro Bowler]

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The Wizards' biggest offseason needs and the most realistic ways to address them

The Wizards' biggest offseason needs and the most realistic ways to address them

Back on April 2, the day Wizards owner Ted Leonsis addressed the media after firing Ernie Grunfeld as team president, he said he would commence an evaluation process of his organization to determine the next step. He said this process would take approximately three weeks.

Well, three weeks have now passed.

Though there has been little news about their plans, that means things should start picking up in terms of their targeting of candidates and the interview process.

Whomever takes over the Wizards will have a long to-do list. Paramount will be working around a cumbersome salary cap situation in light of John Wall's injury, few trade assets and the presence of just one draft pick this June. 

The Wizards also only have six players currently under contract for next season and that includes Wall, who will probably miss at least 50 games. That also includes Jabari Parker, whose $20 million team option is highly likely to be declined, and Ian Mahinmi, who can't really be counted on for a rotation spot given how things went last year. 

There is also Troy Brown Jr., who is only 20 and still finding his way, as well as Dwight Howard, who missed the final five months of last season after having back surgery. Outside of Bradley Beal, it is a bunch of unknowns.

Here is a look at the Wizards' biggest on-court needs and how they are most realistically going to be able to address them.

Wizards' Biggest Offseason Needs

1. Rim protection

This tops the Wizards' wish-list seemingly every summer but never before has it arguably been this bad. They posted the worst defensive rating in franchise history last season (113.9), ranking 28th among NBA teams in the category and 29th in points allowed (116.9/g). 

Though the Wizards had a litany of problems on the defensive end, protecting the rim was arguably their worst. No team allowed more field goals per game within five feet than the Wizards (22.1) and only two teams allowed a higher percentage (64.2). 

This year's draft is thin on big men at the top and in the Wizards' likely range. If they luck into the No. 1 pick and draft Zion Williamson, that would certainly help. But outside of him, the best options for rim protection are probably Texas freshman Jaxson Hayes and Maryland sophomore Bruno Fernando.

Per usual, the free agent crop of shot-blockers isn't deep. Brook Lopez and Nerlens Noel may be the best fits based on their likely price range. Still, it seems more likely they find some help in free agency.

2. Wing defense

One thing that can help rim protection is preventing opponents from getting there and the Wizards weren't good at that, either. Only two teams allowed more field goal attempts from within five feet of the rim than the Wizards (34.4). Washington was also bottom-five in the league in three-pointers allowed (12.1) and opponents three-point percentage (37). 

The numbers paint an ugly picture and the eye test didn't do them any favors. The Wizards just aren't a physical team on the perimeter. 

The good news is that they might be able to find help in the draft. If they find some lottery luck and vault into the top three, Duke's R.J. Barrett has the athletic tools and competitive drive to be a perimeter pest. 

The guy who stands out the most defensively is Virginia's De'Andre Hunter. He was the ACC defensive player of the year and a driving force in the Cavs' national title run. He is big and rangy and can guard multiple positions, a guy who has All-Defense potential at the NBA level.

In free agency, it will be hard to find a real difference maker given the money they are currently set to have. It's hard to see them affording Patrick Beverley, for instance, much less Malcolm Brogdon or a top tier guy like Jimmy Butler.

So, the draft is probably the best avenue.

3. Point guard depth

With Wall out of the picture for the foreseeable future, the Wizards need to stock their roster with some point guards to make do while he is out. The question will be how many resources do they want to apply to what is an important position. It could be seen simply as 'how badly do they want to win in 2019-20?'

If making the playoffs is the goal, then re-signing Tomas Satoransky is probably their best option. It is hard to see them doing any better than him in free agency or via trades. 

There are, though, some solid options in the draft. If they get lucky and land the second or third pick, that could mean Murray State's Ja Morant. If they fall in the seven-to-nine range in the first round, 6-5 North Carolina guard Coby White could be the guy.

This free agent class is deep with point guard options, but they would have trouble finding a starter-level player in their price range. You are probably looking at a group that includes Beverley and Cory Joseph. Beyond them, it's a bunch of players like Elfrid Payton, Jerian Grant and Jeremy Lin.

The best option is probably to just bring back Satoransky and hope Brown can continue to develop his point guard skills.

4. Rebounding

Rebounding was the Wizards' most glaring weakness in 2018-19. It affected both ends of the floor and made matters much more difficult defensively. Even when the Wizards would force missed shots, they couldn't complete their stops by rebounding the ball. That also affected their ability to start fastbreaks and play up-tempo.

Last season, the Wizards ranked 27th in total rebounds and defensive rebounds. They were 28th in rebounds against and 29th in offensive rebounds allowed. They gave up 14.1 second chance points per game and only five teams allowed more.

Though they were 32-50 on the season, they were 16-6 in games in which they rebounded their opponents. That means they were 16-44 when they lost the category, a huge difference.

Among draft prospects, Williamson, Barrett and Fernando are the best options, depending on where the Wizards land. But free agency will be deep with rebounders including DeAndre Jordan among the longshots and Ed Davis and Noah Vonleh among the potential bargains.

Even if the Wizards have Howard back and re-sign center Thomas Bryant, using what money they will have to acquire a rebounding power forward may be the smart move here. 

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Jeff Green 'would love to come back' to Wizards, add stability to journeyman career

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Jeff Green 'would love to come back' to Wizards, add stability to journeyman career

With six different teams in the past five years, Jeff Green has become one of the NBA's most itinerant journeymen.

Including his early-career move from Seattle to Oklahoma City, when the franchise transitioned from the Sonics to the Thunder, Green has played in eight different cities. Among active players, only Ish Smith (10), Marco Bellinelli (nine), Shaun Livingston (nine) and Anthony Tolliver (nine) have played for more teams.

Being in Washington this past season, though, was different. That's because Green is from the area, having grown up nearby in Maryland. He starred at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, then at Georgetown University in Northwest D.C.

At 32 years old (he turns 33 in August), Green does not prefer being a basketball nomad. He would like to stay with the Wizards this summer as he aims for a new contract in free agency.

"I would love to come back," Green said. "Great set of guys on this team. I loved playing with Brad [Beal], John [Wall]."

Green also mentioned playing for head coach Scott Brooks, for whom he played in Seattle and Oklahoma City. Brooks was an assistant on the Sonics staff when Green was a rookie, then took over as head coach in the middle of Green's sophomore season. Green left the Thunder after his third season and, 10 years later, was reunited with Brooks in Washington.

The biggest draw for Green to the Wizards, though, is the fact it is his hometown team. Though playing at home is a drawback for some players, Green found major benefits in being around family and in the town where he played college ball.

"Being in front of family every night was great for me. It allowed me to see my daughters more than a couple of times a year, which was great," he said. 

"Being in a familiar setting from my Georgetown days was great. Being able to go up to Georgetown and watch the guys get better, it was great. [Those are] things I haven’t been able to do since being in the league."

On the court, Green found individual success with the Wizards amid a disappointing season overall. He averaged 12.3 points and 4.0 rebounds while setting a career-high in effective field goal percentage (55.5). 

He did all of that while making the league minimum of $2.4 million. On a Wizards team that was in some ways defined by bloated salaries, Green proved a bargain. 

Hoping to come back to the Wizards was a familiar refrain from impending free agents during the Wizards' media exit interviews. Bobby Portis, Jabari Parker, Thomas Bryant and others all suggested they would like to return. 

But with a new front office leadership structure set to be installed, certainty isn't offered for anyone. For Green, the Wizards' new general manager will need to evaluate whether he was part of their problems. 

While Green probably exceeded expectations this season, he was on the floor when the team struggled to rebound the ball and defend just like his teammates were. The Wizards were 27th in the NBA in defensive rating this season at 112.8, according to NBA.com. Green's defensive rating was 112.6.

The Wizards and Green may ultimately not prove a fit in the eyes of the new GM. If that is the case, Green could move on to play in a new city, the ninth of his career. 

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