Wall needs help from team­mates on of­fen­sive end

Wizards lead se­ries de­spite strug­gles from Beal, oth­ers

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY TODD DYBAS

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.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Washington Wizards guard John Wall is av­er­ag­ing 31 points, 10 as­sists and 4.3 re­bounds in the first-round se­ries.

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