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%.
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.
--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.