The Washington Wizards took a 2-0 series lead over the divisional Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night, 109-101. Here are the three big takeaways from Game 2.
Game 2 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series between the No. 4 Washington Wizards and the No. 5 Atlanta Hawks is in the books. Washington was able to outlast Atlanta in a wild one, 109-101.
The Wizards will take a 2-0 series lead into Atlanta for Game 3 on Saturday. This series between Southeast Division rivals has been feisty so far. Here are the three biggest takeaways from the Wizards’ big win over the Hawks.
John Wall is just better than everybody else. We knew this already going into this series, but Wizards point guard John Wall is by far and away the best player on the hardwood. His ability to take over in crunch time for the Wizards makes his team a viable threat to win multiple playoff series.
In Game 2, Wall had 32 points on 9-of-20 shooting, 2-of-2 on 3-pointers and 12-15 from the free throw line. He would also have 9 assists and 5 rebounds to pair with all those points. Wall is able to ignite his Washington team to another gear in transition offense that Atlanta just cannot contain.
Atlanta’s best player is power forward Paul Millsap. While he is an all-around excellent player at the four for the Hawks, Millsap just can’t carry the Atlanta offense in crunch-time like Wall can. It’s not like Hawks point guard Dennis Schroder has had a bad series by any means. He just been outclassed by Wall on his ascendance to bona fide superstardom.
No 3-pointers from the Hawks in the first half didn’t help. A strange anomaly from this game: Atlanta did not make a 3-point field goal during the entire first half. That was the first time since the 2011 NBA Playoffs that a team did not connect on a shot from distance in the opening two quarters of a ball game.
The Hawks were certainly able to attack the rim and get Washington into early foul trouble to grab leads at times. However, Atlanta only managed four 3-point field goals on the night, shooting 20 percent (4-of-20). Tim Hardaway Jr. had two, while Millsap and Schroder had one apiece.
The lack of competence from the outside really undermined Atlanta’s outstanding night at the free throw line. Atlanta made 86.8 percent of its attempts at the charity stripe. Head coach Mike Budenholzer would take a 33 for 38 night at the line any day of the week. Hopefully, Atlanta can make some shots from distance in Games 3 or 4. Otherwise, we could be looking at a series sweep at the hands of the Wizards.
If you like fouls, you would have loved this game. Though the Wizards did technically win Game 2, one could argue the officials definitely tried to steal the game from both teams. Game 2 took almost three hours to complete because of the absurd amount of whistles being blown.
Atlanta had 26 personal fouls to Washington’s 29. In short, the officials took three frontcourt players out of the game before it started to get interesting. Wizards forwards Otto Porter Jr. and Markieff Morris combined for 9 fouls, 7 points and 7 rebounds in 43 minutes of action. Atlanta center Dwight Howard had 7 rebounds, 6 points and 4 fouls in 19 minutes on Wednesday night.
Eventually, the players adjusted to the officiating and we got an exciting, freer-flowing fourth quarter. The game was in the balance inside of five minutes, then Wall just took over. Atlanta’s youth and inexperience in the backcourt didn’t help the Hawks steal a game in Washington. The Hawks can win a game or two at home, but this feels like a series that Washington will win in five or six games.