John Wall and the Wizards know too many turnovers put a strain on their offense against the Hawks this season. Facing Atlanta in the playoffs with a right shoulder strain is just something the point guard knows he must deal with starting with Game 1 on Sunday.
Wall and the Wizards headed to Atlanta Saturday afternoon after wrapping up one final practice at the Verizon Center. Washington hasn't played since finishing off a 4-0 series sweep against the Toronto Raptors with a rousing 125-96 victory last Sunday. That's given the team time to tighten up their game, prep for the top-seeded Hawks and rest. Wall suffered a shoulder injury during the opening game against the Raptors. Not that his performance suffered. The All-Star averaged 19.6 points and 14.0 assists over the final three games.
"It's all right. It (will) be all right," Wall said of his right shoulder. "I have a little strain in it and it's something I have to deal with, but you make no excuses when you're in the playoffs."
The Wizards were direct when discussing their turnover woes against the Hawks this season. Washington averaged 17.5 turnovers in the four games compared to 10.8 for Atlanta.
"Doesn’t matter if we’re playing Atlanta or Toronto or whoever, that’s not a good number for us to have," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "The big thing in this series is to get shots. That’s what our mentality’s got to be, to get a shot every time down the floor."
Getting up shots starts with the point guard and Wall struggled maintaining possession against the Hawks. He committed a whopping 6.8 turnovers per game. That's three more than his regular season average and the most for Wall against any team this season. Typically matched up directly against fellow All-Star guard Jeff Teague, Wall had games with seven, eight and 10 (in a win) turnovers against Atlanta this season.
"They're just great with their hands," he said of the Hawks defenders. "You have to make simple reads against them in pick-and-roll situations. When you get into the paint, they're all using their hands to swipe down on the ball."
The turnovers don't just take away shot attempts for Washington, but also fuels Atlanta's offensive push, leading to open 3-point looks. The Hawks attempted 26.2 shots from beyond the arc during the regular season and ranked second with a 38 percent clip.
"They feed off their defense to get them going in transition," Wall noted. "That's when they find (Kyle) Korver and DeMarre) Carroll and all those guys to make open shots."
The Wizards still had stretches with too many turnovers against the Raptors, but so much else worked it didn't matter. Washington harassed Toronto's perimeter threats defensively and drained plenty of shots from deep with Wall spearheading the effort on both ends of the court.
"I think we're just playing more confident," Wall said about whether the Wizards are a different team compared to the one the Hawks handled. "I think whenever we play defense and we're not turning the ball over a lot, contest shots, rebound the ball as a group, I think we're a tough team."
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