Wizards know they can play bet­ter

Have 2-0 lead despite foul, free throw prob­lems

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY TODD DY­BAS

After Bradley Beal’s wing 3-pointer went in with 38 sec­onds to play, he turned and ex­ulted. The made shot was a re­lief and seal in Game 2 that capped Beal’s 16-point fourth quar­ter res­ur­rec­tion.

He knew after­ward that how he has shot the ball dur­ing the first two games of the Washington Wizards se­ries with the At­lanta Hawks is not up to his stan­dard. Washington coach Scott Brooks knew that Washington had taken a 2-0 se­ries lead despite Marki­eff Mor­ris and Otto Porter rarely play­ing in the sec­ond game be­cause of foul prob­lems. As a group, the Wizards know they can play bet­ter, and, despite that, are half­way to win­ning their firstround se­ries with the Hawks as it shifts to At­lanta for Game 3 on Satur­day.

“We know that they are go­ing to play a lot bet­ter basketball and we feel like we haven’t played our best basketball yet,” John Wall said.

Twice, the Hawks have outscored Washington by a sub­stan­tial chunk at the freethrow line, by 16 and nine, re­spec­tively, and twice they have lost. If the amount of made free throws was sim­ply even, Washington would have two blowout wins in two home games.

Also, Beal is shoot­ing just 43.8 per­cent from the field and 28.6 per­cent from be­hind the 3-point line, yet has pro­duced 26.5 points per game.

“I feel like my flow is good, but my shot sucks,” Beal said. “I’ve got to put the two to­gether.”

The large rea­son Washington has been able to deal with foul trou­ble, the free-throw dis­par­ity and Beal’s sub­par shoot­ing is At­lanta’s in­abil­ity to con­trol the ball. It has 37 turnovers in the first two games, un­der­min­ing its core want in this se­ries. At­lanta came to the District know­ing noth­ing helped Wall and the Wizards more than turnovers, es­pe­cially on their home floor. In two games, At­lanta’s starters have re­peat­edly turned the ball over.

“Turnovers killed us,” At­lanta for­ward Paul Mill­sap said. “Didn’t ex­e­cute well. We let them play their style of game and when we do that they ob­vi­ously hurt us get­ting up and down the court, so we got to do a bet­ter job of tak­ing care of the ball, es­pe­cially in the fourth quar­ter.”

It has been a cu­ri­ous se­ries for Mill­sap, the Hawks lone All-Star holdover from the start­ing five that won 60 games two sea­sons ago. At­lanta dis­banded that group, which in­cluded Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, DeMarre Car­roll, Mill­sap and Al Hor­ford. Its re­booted unit moved Den­nis Schroder to be the point guard in­stead of Teague, brought in the mer­cu­rial Dwight Howard at cen­ter and has been try­ing to fig­ure out the rest.

Which leaves Mill­sap as the best player and voice of the team. He’s 32. Game 2 was his 83rd ca­reer play­off game. After­ward, he deemed the se­ries even since Washington had held home court, as it was ex­pected to by virtue of be­ing the higher seed.

“I think they got home-court ad­van­tage, they played off of that but to us I mean it’s 0-0 to us,” Mill­sap said. “We’re go­ing back to At­lanta. We feel like we’re still con­fi­dent so to us, it’s 0-0.”

What, pre­cisely, At­lanta can do to turn the se­ries around is un­clear. Mill­sap con­tended that the Hawks’ small-ball lineup is bet­ter than Washington’s. But, he came to that con­clu­sion on a night when Porter and Mor­ris missed roughly 20 min­utes of play­ing time com­bined. So, Mill­sap may be cor­rect against Washington’s backup small-ball lineup. How­ever, when Washington is at full strength, like it was in Game 1 and Mor­ris per­son­ally han­dled Mill­sap, the sit­u­a­tion changes.

A co­nun­drum for At­lanta coach Mike Bu­den­holzer is how to get the Hawks into those line­ups with­out fully jet­ti­son­ing Howard from the ro­ta­tion. At­lanta’s mam­moth cen­ter has been out­played twice by Marcin Gor­tat. After play­ing 29 min­utes in Game 1, Howard played a shade less than 20 min­utes in Game 2. He was subbed out late in the third quar­ter of Game 2 and did not re­turn. Howard watched the fi­nal 15:38 of the game from the bench. When in­ter­viewed after­ward, he an­swered ques­tions only by say­ing, “I don’t know” over and over.

“You feel like we had a chance in both games,” Bu­den­holzer said. “We gave our­selves a chance on the road, in the play­offs. No­body likes the re­sult. No­body feels any bet­ter. The fact that you are there and you have an op­por­tu­nity, you just have to keep build­ing on it. You have to take what you did well and build on that and im­prove, know­ing we had a chance in both games. Credit to them, they found a way to win them both. Now we have to go home and do the same.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal is shoot­ing just 43.8 per­cent from the field and 28.6 per­cent from be­hind the 3-point line, yet has pro­duced 26.5 points per game in the play­offs.

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