Wall needs help from teammates on offensive end
Wizards lead series despite struggles from Beal, others
ATLANTA | Before the playoffs began, John Wall made a simple proclamation. Standing with Bradley Beal a couple feet away in a northwest D.C. alley for a promotional event, Wall looked at Beal, then said the playoffs are going to “come down to how me and Brad are playing.”
Through three games against the Atlanta Hawks, that has turned out to be partly true. Wall has been fantastic. He’s averaging 31 points, 10 assists and 4.3 rebounds in the series. More than 10 free throws per game have bolstered his efficiency.
Beal’s offense has not been in tow. In Game 3, he was a mere 6-for-20 from the field and 0-for-6 from behind the 3-point line. Those lines would hold a different tenor if Atlanta had done a thorough jobs stifling Beal from where he wants to be. Instead, Beal has often been open and missed. After Game 2, he said his flow was good but his shot “sucks.” His assessment after Game 3?
“Same thing,” Beal said Sunday.
He’s shooting 22.2 percent from behind the 3-point line the series.
Saturday night, in an emphatic Game 3 loss that cut Washington’s series lead to 2-1, Beal’s wayward offense found partners in Markieff Morris, Otto Porter and others. Bojan Bogdanovic is shooting 10 percent from behind the 3-point line. Porter 25 percent. Morris 27.3 percent.
As much as the Hawks’ quality firstquarter shooting was damning of Washington’s defense, the Wizards’ lack of offense was odd and critical. At no point this season did Washington encounter a period where one of its maladies was scoring. It has been the opposite. Wizards coach Scott Brooks has repeatedly begged for better defense, even marking one of his criticisms of his team as one that thinks it can simply outscore opponents.
That notion has hung around the Wizards throughout the season. It also comes with an undermining side factor: The Wizards are so reliant on their quality offense, if it’s not working, their defensive ambition goes swirling away with each offensive mishap.
“We’re missing WIDE open shots,” Morris said Saturday night. “In the first half [Saturday], we missed at least 30 wide open shots. One of those days. They had a great game offensively. Defensively, we let them have a great game. We missed shots. Not to take anything away from them, we’re better than that. Thirty wide-open looks in the first half. Just missed shots. It happens.”
It has been happening often in this series for Washington. Not once has it made 10 3-pointers in a game. It has not reached 30 assists — a marker the ball is moving and shots are going in — as a team in any of the games.
The bench players have done little, which has turned the first three games into Wall-or-bust for the Wizards.
The lucky part for them is that they remain up 2-1. A win Saturday night would have meant a 3-0 series lead. No team in NBA history has recovered from that deficit. Instead, Atlanta is looking at Monday as a time to level the series and truncate it to a best-of-three with an every-other-day schedule. Washington wants to take Game 4 in Atlanta in order to align a shot at closing the series in Verizon Center on Wednesday night. Teams that take 3-1 series lead in the NBA playoffs go on to win the series 95.3 percent of the time.
“[Atlanta] is a team that’s hungry,” Beal said. “They got a smell of a win. They’re confident now. It’s important for us to bring that confidence back down and let them know we’re here, we’re the better team and we’re going to fight and prove it.”
Washington Wizards guard John Wall is averaging 31 points, 10 assists and 4.3 rebounds in the first-round series.