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Takeaways from Wizards' win over Atlanta Hawks in Game 1 of NBA Playoffs

Takeaways from Wizards' win over Atlanta Hawks in Game 1 of NBA Playoffs

Before Markieff Morris could walk off the floor after knocking down three foul shots after being run over by Paul Millsap on an attempt, he had some words for him face-to-face and almost nose-to-nose.

Morris (21 points, seven rebounds, four blocks)  came out with the same fire to start the second half, leading the Wizards back by scoring 11 of his points in the third en route to a 114-107 victory in Game 1 of the first-round series with the Atlanta Hawks at Verizon Center.

Morris did it on both ends as Millsap (19 points) was held relatively in check after he had 12 points by halftime.

Just as Morris inspired with his fiery antics, John Wall (game-high 32 points, 14 assists) put his foot on the pedal. He shot 6 of 9 in a 38-point third.

Bradley Beal (22 points), Marcin Gortat (14 points, 10 rebounds), Otto Porter (10 points, nine rebounds) and Kelly Oubre (11 points, two steals) did the rest of the work.

The Hawks were led by Dennis Schroder (25 points, nine assists) but didn’t get much help offensively beyond Taurean Prince (14 points), Millsap and Kent Bazemore (12 points). Dwight Howard (seven points, 14 rebounds) got extra possessions but shot just 2-for-6.

Tim Hardaway (seven points, seven rebounds) only shot 2-for-11, including 0-for-6 from three. The Hawks were just 7-for-25 from three, or 28%. 

[RELATED: Most important areas and matchups in Wizards-Hawks series]

Game 2 Wednesday at Verizon Center which sold out Sunday (20,356). Prince's three got Atlanta to 108-103 in the final two minutes.

--The moment Brandon Jennings entered, the lane opened. Schroder made a straight-line drive for the and-1 to cut the deficit to 23-15. The defense is unprepared for the floodgates to open so soon and aren’t in position to help. Schroder got around Jennings again which required Wall’s help and the ball movement led to Ersan Ilyasova’s bucket. The Hawks were able to erase an 11-point deficit and take a 29-25 lead going into the second quarter. When the fourth began, however, Jennings was able to get them out in transition for easy baskets. But just before that to end the third, he made an extra pass to Wall for a three that blew the doors open 79-65.--Continuing a recent trend, Oubre is jumping passing lanes and getting deflections and steals. That’s a good thing. But he had a golden opportunity and backrimmed a dunk. It happened to him in the second-to-last regular season game with Detroit as well. But when the second began, Oubre did it again by jumping the lane to Hardaway and got the transition dunk. He settled down after starting 1-for-5 and made an open three in the fourth and a pocket jumper to get into double figures.

--With no Ian Mahinmi (calf strain), Jason Smith played the spread five which is something that the Wizards did do often during the regular season. When Morris was on the floor with Smith, he played the spread five which forced Howard to cover him at a distance. When Morris overdribbled and didn’t make up his mind, Jose Calderon came with the quickly double-team and created a turnover. Morris was better off giving up the ball, spacing to the arc and getting it back. Howard then has to make a decision to come out farther or give up the open 3. He gave up the open look and Morris knocked it down. On Oubre’s three for a 95-83 lead, Morris isolated on Ilyasova which forced the help, he reversed the ball when he was doubled to Jennings in the corner and it produced an open shot. The Hawks know they can’t cover Morris with Ilyasova one-on-one so it’s help or allow a high-percentage look and hope for a miss.

[RELATED: Double take: Two Markieff Morrises at the Wizards game?]

--Gortat was physical off the ball and even when Howard had the ball in the high post like Mahinmi often is. He didn’t play soft and allow Howard to make a decision with the ball and that helped created a tone in which the Wizards were physical everywhere. The Wizards lost the overall rebound battle 48-42.

--True to his words, Morris was “turnt up” for his first playoff game. He blocked Millsap and then Howard when he got the rebound in the waning minutes of the second quarter. He then drew a foul on at three-point attempt and went the line to get the deficit down to three. Morris also hit the floor to force a jump ball with Millsap and won the tap to Porter. Morris got the better of Millsap in the season series and that continued Sunday.

-- Beal wasn’t missing because the Hawks were doing anything special to take him away. He had wide-open, second-chance shots that were short. He got a switch on Ilyasova late in the second, easily lost him on the stepback move and came up woefully short on the three. Beal was just 3-for-10 overall in the first 24 minutes, including 1 of 6 on threes. The Wizards were 17 of 51 at halftime and trailed 48-45. They were fortunate. Beal focused more on getting easier buckets from two-point range and in transition. He only shot 9-for-21 when it was over and 2-for-11 from three.

--The Hawks did a better job of attacking in the half-court. The evidence was in the foul shots. They were 19 of 22 in the first half compared to 9-for-9 by Washington.  Millsap when at Morris and drew the first foul on him 17 seconds into the game but he avoided foul trouble. The Wizards were attacking the rim but they weren’t going at Howard to force him to take a risk defending. Instead, Wall was double-clutching trying to finesse the ball to the rim. Whistles are less likely in those situations. But he foul shot disparity was still vast. The Hawks had a 39-17 edge in attempts.

--Smith stayed down in the final seconds of the third quarter after Bazemore fell down trying to stop the Wizards from getting the final shot. Much like Kevin Durant when he hyperextended his knee here earlier this season when Zaza Pachulia fell, Bazemore went down as Smith was trying to set a screen for Beal. He bounced off his knee. Smith was able to leave the floor on under his own power.  Smith didn’t return was still on the bench. Morris and Gortat played the five spot in the fourth. 

[RELATED: VIDEO: Morris blocks two Hawks players back-to-back]

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Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

The Wizards' selection of Troy Brown of the University of Oregon with their first round pick has been met with a strong reaction among fans, many of whom argue he doesn't play a position of need, that it was a luxury pick when other areas could have been addressed, most notably in their frontcourt. Big man Robert Williams of Texas A&M, for example, was still on the board. 

The Wizards, though, did address needs by picking Brown. And really, they arguably filled more pressing needs in the short-term than those at power forward and center.

Though the Wizards clearly need some help at big man in the long-term, as both of their starting bigs are on expiring deals, they need help immediately at both shooting guard and small forward. Brown, though he is only 18 years old and offers no guarantees to contribute right away, can play both of those positions.

Shooting guard is where he can help the most. The Wizards have one backup shooting guard in Jodie Meeks and he is due to miss the first 19 games of the 2018-19 season while serving a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

Even when Meeks was available this past season, he only helped so much. He shot just 39.9 percent from the field and 34.3 percent from three. Head coach Scott Brooks often chose to rely more on starter Bradley Beal than go to Meeks as his replacement. As a result, Beal logged the fourth-most minutes of any player in the NBA.

More depth at shooting guard will help relieve Beal of some of that workload. That would be great for keeping him fresh throughout the season and help him be at his best when they need him most in the playoffs.

The Wizards also have some urgency at small forward. It is their strongest position in terms of one-two on the depth chart, but they have no logical third option. That was magnified in the playoffs once Otto Porter got injured. They were left with Kelly Oubre, Jr. and had to trot out Tomas Satoransky, who has limited experience at the position.

Brown can play both shooting guard and small forward, giving them much needed depth. If he can play well enough to earn a rotation spot, the emergency situations the Wizards encountered last season could be avoided in 2018-19.

The Wizards still need to find long-term solutions at power forward and center, but they were going to need to find answers at shooting guard and small forward as well. Both Meeks and Oubre have one year left on their deals. Brown helps solidify the long-term outlook at wing.

Now, there's no denying the Wizards already had considerable talent at both shooting guard and small forward with Beal, Porter and Oubre. That begs the question of how much Brown can offer particularly in the first year of his career. But the Wizards would like to play more positionless basketball and to do that requires depth at wing.

The Boston Celtics have helped make positionless basketball famous and their roster shows that the one player-type you can't have enough of is similar to Brown. Boston has Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris. All are around 6-foot-7 or 6-foot-8 and offer versatility on both ends of the floor.

The Wizards also now have four players of that size and with positional versatility in Brown, Porter, Oubre and Satoransky. They can roll out different combinations of those guys and possibly have an advantage on defense with the ability to switch seamlessly on screens.

In the age of positionless basketball, players of Brown's ilk have become major assets especially for teams that have many of them. There is such a thing as having too many point guards or centers because they can't coexist on the floor. Versatile wings, in most scenarios, can play together in numbers.

It's different but in a way similar to certain positions in other sports. In baseball, you can have too many catchers but you can't have too many talented pitchers and utility players. In football, you can have too many running backs or tight ends, but you can't have too many defensive linemen. 

Brown gives them options from a roster perspective in the long-term. Oubre has one year left on his contract and if he continues his trejectory with a strong 2018-19 season, he could price himself out of Washington. Brown could move up the depth chart as his replacement one year from now. The Wizards also now have the option to consider trades at the position given their depth.

The problem, one could argue, with drafting Brown over a Williams-type is that it limits their options at center in particular. Drafting Williams would have made it easier to trade Marcin Gortat, for instance, because they would have had depth to deal from. Now, it's more difficult to trade Gortat, whom they have shopped on and off for months, without a plan to replace him. Finding a Gortat substitute in free agency with the limited resource they have would not be easy.

But big man wasn't their only need and in Brown the Wizards may have found a solution at other areas where they clearly needed help.


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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did


Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

The first round of the NBA Draft played out expectedly for what the Wizards had planned for the night. In Troy Brown, they clearly got the guy they wanted all along, seeing as there were many interesting prospects they passed on to choose him.

The second round was a bit more chaotic. Team president Ernie Grunfeld said there were a few players picked just ahead of them at No. 44 that they had their eyes on. They contemplated trading up, but no perfect deals were presented.

So, they decided to think long-term, like really long-term. In choosing Ukrainian point guard Issuf Sanon, the Wizards understand it may be years before he plays in the NBA.

"We hope to have him developed in a few years," Grunfeld said.

Sanon, just 18, plays for Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia. He may stay in Europe into his 20s before he comes to the United States.

The Wizards have utilized the draft-and-stash model with other players. Their 2015 second round pick, Aaron White, has been playing in Europe for the past three seasons.

Sometimes those players never convey and contribute for the Wizards. But sometimes they do and Grunfeld pointed to a player already on their roster as a model to consider.

"We drafted Tomas [Satoransky] at an earlier age, he went overseas [and] he played at the highest level and it got him ready for the NBA," Grunfeld said.

The difference between now and then is that the Wizards have a G-League franchise starting this fall, the Capital City Go-Go. Because of that, it seemed more likely going into the draft that the Wizards would use the second round pick on a guy who can play there right away. 

Grunfeld, however, opted for roster flexibility. By keeping Sanon in Europe, the Wizards can have another open roster spot. They could either fill that spot, or leave spots on the end of their roster open as they did for much of last season.

"We want to preserve a roster spot, so just because you draft someone in your second round, if you sign him, he still has a roster spot even if you let him play for the GoGo," Grunfeld said.

Sanon may have a bright future. He is a 6-foot-4 point guard with impressive athleticism who doesn't turn 19 until October. He said he models his game after Russell Westbrook, as a guard who can score the ball. More will be known about him once he plays for their summer league team in July.

The Wizards passed on several interesting prospects to pick Sanon. Still on the board were Keita Bates-Diop of Ohio State, Hamidou Diallo of Kentucky and Svi Mykhailiuk of Kansas, three players they brought in for pre-draft workouts. But instead, they went with a long-term investment, hoping they found the next Satoransky.


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