Washington Wizards extend series lead with 109-101 win over Atlanta Hawks

Washington Wizards extend series lead with 109-101 win over Atlanta Hawks

It was a predictably physical contest with a combined 71 free-throw attempts, but the Wizards backcourt was the difference maker in the end.

Austin McConnell

Coming into game two of the series between the fourth-seeded Washington Wizards and fifth-seeded Atlanta Hawks, most expected a chippy game with the potential for tempers to flare. After all, in Game 1, Hawks forward Paul Millsap was quoted saying the Wizards “were playing MMA,” specifically referring to his matchup Markieff Morris.

Morris went along with Millsap’s words, saying that they could expect “double MMA” in game two. Unsurprisingly, the contest was filled with tight refereeing and an abundance of fouls, which allowed the Hawks to stick around. In the end, despite plenty of opportunities to steal one on the road, the Hawks were unable to take advantage and bowed out late in the fourth quarter.

Hawks Had Chances

With the Chicago Bulls taking a shocking 2-0 series lead on the Boston Celtics, it is reasonable to assume that the motivation to win this series went up a notch. The winner would certainly favor a matchup with the unpredictable Bulls and have their sights set on the Eastern Conference Finals. However, it didn’t look like the Hawks were motivated enough in this one, and they now face a major uphill battle if they hope to advance.

The first-half was ugly for both sides, but the Hawks were happy to be within single digits at the break. They failed to make a single three-pointer in the half but remained close through the free-throw line. The Wizards’ home crowd voiced its discontent for the officiating throughout the night, and much of it was justified.

The Hawks looked poised to take control of the game in the second half when several key Wizards players fell into foul trouble. Morris, Kelly Oubre Jr., and Otto Porter Jr. all had to sit for significant time in the third quarter, and Millsap went to work because of it.

As the game moved into clutch time, however, the Hawks had several costly turnovers and were unable to effectively defend John Wall and Bradley Beal. This was certainly a winnable game for Atlanta, and it casts even more doubt on their prospects for the rest of the series.

Millsap’s Massive Effort

Despite the loss, there were a few bright spots for the Hawks. Per usual, the soon-to-be-free agent Millsap was huge, scoring 27 points with ten rebounds and four assists. He was 14-of-15 from the free-throw line, and it was obvious that his comments about the officiating led to more focus on that end.

Dennis Schroder was hot and cold on the night, shooting just 1-for-8 from beyond the arc but still scoring 23 points with six assists. He threw down a massive slam late in the game that potentially could have been considered a game-changing play had the Hawks continued the momentum to the end.

Another positive at times was the rookie forward Taurean Prince, who continues to showcase his potential on the big stage. He has shown confidence and a skill set that will make him a key part of this organization whether or not they decide to rebuild.

The negatives for the Hawks largely had to do with turnovers and defense. Kent Bazemore’s nightmare season continued, tonight committing four key turnovers as the primary ball handler. The lackluster play from backup point guard Malcolm Delaney has led head coach Mike Budenholzer to try Bazemore out in the position, but it has not gone as planned.

Tim Hardaway Jr. struggled mightily to defend Wall and Beal on the perimeter, although the was able to contribute 23 points. Dwight Howard played just 20 minutes, as he has been too ineffective in the series to play down the stretch.

Schroder rises up for the dunk over several Wizards defenders. (Photo by Ned Dishpan/Getty Images)
Schroder rises up for the dunk over several Wizards defenders. Photo: Ned Dishpan/Getty Images

Dynamic Duo Comes Through

Washington’s prized backcourt of Wall and Beal carried the load for the night, combining for 63 total points. Wall had 32 of them to go along with nine rebounds and five assists in a game where he showed how much his skill set has developed since his early years with the organization. He has learned to channel his passion in all the right ways, and the Hawks simply had no answers for his athleticism.

Beal shot the ball 27 times but contributed 31 points in 42 minutes. He has enjoyed the best season of his career since signing a new contract with the Wizards, and they are incredibly tough to beat when he and Wall are both clicking.

Marcin Gortat had a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds, dominating his former teammate Howard in game one and a short time in game two. Gortat credited Howard for teaching him toughness when they played together on the Orlando Magic, and he will look to continue using it against him in the series.

Morris and Porter were quiet in the scoring category, but they were both double-digit positives in the plus-minus category. Both dealt with foul trouble, which limited their minutes to around 20 apiece. Brandon Jennings got some extra minutes in the process and briefly caught fire, finishing with ten points.

Next Game in Series

The series shifts to thr Philips Arena in Atlanta on Saturday, in what has to be a must-win situation for the Hawks at home. The Wizards will look to grab at least one win away from home to help finish things off.