Beal, Wall close out Game 2 win for Wizards
At the end, as it continually does for the Washington Wizards, it came down to John Wall and Bradley Beal.
The franchise, season and team’s postseason hopes are built on the young duo. Wednesday night, they combined to close the show.
Wall and Beal scored seven consecutive baskets in the final minutes to pull Game 2 of Washington’s first round playoff series with the Atlanta Hawks out of the muck. Wall hit a jumper and dunked on the break. Beal hit a healing 3-pointer. He was 3-for-9 from behind the 3-point line beforehand and just 11-for-26 from the field during his second mediocre shooting night of the series. But, he found a wing 3-pointer to put Washington in front by eight with 38 seconds to play.
The 109-101 win put Washington in a powerful spot. It is up 2-0 after two home games in the best-of-seven series. Game 3 is Saturday night in Atlanta. Two seasons ago, the Wizards swept their first-round playoff series against the Toronto Raptors. They are in position to do so again.
Brandon Jennings engineered an offensive push by Washington early in the fourth quarter. He was responsible for six consecutive points off of two midrange jumpers and a drop pass that led to a Jason Smith dunk. The Wizards tied the game during the surge, setting up the tight final six minutes.
Washington took control of the series opener in the third quarter. Wednesday, the Hawks flipped an eight-point halftime deficit into a four-point lead before the fourth quarter began. Markieff Morris and Otto Porter played a combined five minutes in the quarter because of foul trouble. That allowed Atlanta All-Star Paul Millsap to get rolling. He scored 14 in the quarter, driving to the rim and handling whichever defensive option the Wizards tried with Morris marooned on the bench.
Beal struggled throughout the quarter, going 2-for-7 from the field. The 12 minutes were an all-around spiral during which Washington was outscored 35-23.
The first half had the flow of a clogged storm drain. A game after Millsap said the Wizards were “playing MMA” in Game 1, the referees
made thorough use of their whistles in Game 2. The teams were called for 29 combined fouls in the first two quarters. Washington was charged with 16 of those, drawing the consistent ire of Wall and coach Scott Brooks. Brooks became irritated enough that he received a technical foul in the second quarter.
Piling up so many fouls restricted Washington’s frontcourt. Porter and Morris were removed from the game early after each acquired two fouls. They did not make it to the half before each receiving a third foul. Foul trouble for the frontcourt forced Brooks to use three-guard lineups with Jennings playing alongside Wall and Beal for a spell. Jennings started guarding the ball, but after Atlanta point guard Dennis Schroder scored on him and backup wing player Kent Bazemore scored on him, Jennings was moved to guard a corner shooter. His inability to defend will be an issue going forward for the Wizards in this series and, if they advance, beyond.
Matching the unappealing look of a half filled with fouls was clunky shooting. Washington shot 40.5 percent from the field. Atlanta shot 34.9 percent. The Hawks were 0-for-8 from behind the 3-point line.
Someone had to lead despite the widespread wayward play. Washington was up by eight, 51-43, at halftime. It went into the second half knowing that Morris and Porter needed to survive as long as possible without committing a fourth foul. Neither did. Porter committed his fourth foul less than two minutes into the third quarter and was replaced by Kelly Oubre. Morris committed his fourth foul two minutes later. Jason Smith entered the game for him.
Amid the mess was more excellent play from Wizards center Marcin Gortat. He outplayed former teammate Dwight Howard in Game 1. He did it again in Game 2. Gortat was 4-for-5 from the field, had four rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots in the first half. Howard was again a limited factor during the two periods. Center is a spot that Atlanta needed to hold an advantage. It has through the first two games because of Gortat’s stout and savvy play stopping Howard and, at times, Millsap.
Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal scores against the Atlanta Hawks in a 109-101 victory on Wednesday in Game 2 of their first-round series.
Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap is fouled by Washington Wizards forward Jason Smith in Game 2 of their first round series on Wednesday. The teams were called for 29 combined fouls in the first two quarters, including 16 by the Wizards.