Just as the Washington Wizards had done in Game 1 on Sunday, the Atlanta Hawks dominated Wednesday’s third quarter. But the Wizards were able to fight back in the final frame to take both games at home, thanks to a fourth-quarter jolt from Brandon Jennings, Bradley Beal and, of course, John Wall. The Wizards’ all-star point guard was dominant again with 32 points and nine assists. Washington won, 109-101, to claim a 2-0 series lead.
Here are the best and worst moments from Game 2.
Best exhale: That would be the sigh of relief heard ’round the city. The Wizards withstood an abysmal third quarter to take a 2-0 lead in their first-round series, while the Caps withstood a Toronto comeback effort to tie their series 2-2. And they say the playoffs are miserable in D.C.
Best closer: It was Bradley Beal’s turn to go off during the fourth quarter Wednesday night. With Scott Brooks running a short rotation by necessity and officials calling a tight game (the understatement of the night), the Wizards guard put on a clinic. Beal had 16 points in the fourth quarter, helping Washington hang onto a close lead and hitting a dagger in the final minute. He finished with 31 points and three steals.
— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) April 20, 2017
Best reclamation: Otto Porter Jr. didn’t let Brandon Jennings and Jason Smith’s work go to waste with a steal and emphatic dunk to reclaim the Wizards lead late in the fourth quarter.
— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) April 20, 2017
Best microwave: With the Wizards trailing and badly needing help, Brandon Jennings railed off six straight points himself before feeding Jason Smith for the tying dunk in the fourth. Jennings might have saved this game for Washington.
Worst third quarter: A dominant third quarter propelled the Wizards to a win in Game 1, but it nearly proved to be their downfall Wednesday night. Trailing 51-43 at halftime, the Hawks outscored Washington 35-23 as the Wizards starting lineup racked up foul after foul and Scott Brooks had to turn to his bench. Paul Millsap exploded for 14 points in the third with Markieff Morris on the bench most of the time. John Wall and Bradley Beal shot a combined 4-for-12 from the field.
Worst Bogdanovic: Bojan Bogdanovic has yet to resemble the reliable scorer Washington picked up at the trade deadline, and his third quarter Wednesday wasn’t any better. Bogdanovic missed all three of his attempts from the field during the third quarter, when the Wizards needed a lift. He finished the game with six points on 1-for-7 shooting, including 1-for-5 from three-point range.
Worst foul trouble: With seven minutes left in the third quarter, the crowd at Verizon Center burst into “ref, you suck” chants as the Wizards fell deeper into foul trouble. Both of Washington’s starting forwards, Markieff Morris and Otto Porter Jr., had four fouls, backup forward Kelly Oubre Jr. had four as well, while big man Jason Smith had three. Atlanta took advantage, closing the gap to get to 67-65. Both teams were in the bonus five minutes after intermission. No one fouled out but Morris and Smith ended up with five. As a result, they played just a combined 48 minutes.
Officials are butchering Wizards-Hawks. Both teams already into the penalty five minutes into the third quarter. Letting nothing go.
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) April 20, 2017
Best glare: After John Wall snatched the ball from Atlanta halfway through the third quarter, the all-star point guard dunked on Dennis Schroder to put the Wizards up 57-50 … and then stared his adversary halfway back to the other end of the court. It may not have been MMA, but Wall — who led the league in steals during the regular season — had the reflexes of a fighter.
Dennis Schroder's ability to completely avoid eye contact while John Wall stared him down was most impressive.
— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) April 20, 2017
Best matchup: In a series featuring Marcin Gortat vs. Dwight Howard at center and Markieff Morris vs. Paul Millsap at power forward (or is it stretch-four?), the battle at point guard proved the most entertaining for much of Wednesday night. At halftime, Wall had 17 points and four assists, while Dennis Schroder had 15 points and three assists. Wall was explosive for the Wizards in Game 1 and once again proved himself to be a game-changer. In Game 2, Schroder stepped up to carry the load for Atlanta — at least for one half. He finished with 23 points and six assists.
Worst technical foul: Scott Brooks was assessed a technical after exchanging words with a referee who had called a foul on Markieff Morris late in the second quarter. At least he had his bosses’ backing — Wizards owner Ted Leonsis stood up from his bench seat in protest at the same time Brooks went to battle for his player.
Worst uh-oh: Bradley Beal limped off the court in the second quarter, giving Wizards fans cause to hold their breath for the oft-injured guard. He was okay though. Phew.
Best Jennings: Just before checking out in the second quarter, the Wizards’ backup point guard pestered Tim Hardaway Jr. enough to force a turnover — exactly the type of aggression Brooks said his bench needed to regain when every single reserve played earned a negative plus/minus in Game 1.
Best dunk: Jason Smith earned a little bit of his mojo back after a scoreless Game 1 with an assertive dunk. His celebration of his return was very Smith-like, in that there wasn’t one. The big man just jogged down the court. Despite foul trouble, Smith had eight points, six rebounds and two blocks.
— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) April 19, 2017
Best tirade: John Wall went off on the refs after the first quarter.
John Wall was hot and screamed at ref Marc Davis after the first quarter. He is, apparently, not going to let these refs rook the Wizards.
— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) April 19, 2017
— Hoop District (@HoopDistrictDC) April 19, 2017
Worst deja vu: Just like in Game 1, Wizards Coach Scott Brooks turned to his bench with Washington up in the first quarter, and the lineup featuring four reserves and John Wall promptly lost the lead. The Wizards scuttled away a 10-point edge and trailed 24-23 at the start of the first quarter. If not for Brandon Jennings’s late-game heroics, the bench might again be in hot water.
Best hometown spirit: At the end of the first quarter, Verizon Center played highlights from the other Washington playoff game happening Wednesday — Game 4 of the Capitals’ first-round series against Toronto. Highlights of Tom Wilson’s two goals were displayed on the scoreboard and Wizards’ fans busted out the rally towels accordingly.
Big cheers for Tom Wilson when they play Caps game highlights here at Verizon. pic.twitter.com/drGUujltM4
— Ava Wallace (@avarwallace) April 19, 2017
Worst early nemesis: Dennis Schroder. The man who once advocated slapping John Wall’s ailing wrist in an earlier playoff series torched the Wizards for 12 points in the first 12 minutes (to go with three assists). So much for that early Washington momentum.
Worst whistle after whistle: The most popular topic of discussion following the Wizards’ 114-107 Game 1 win was Hawks’ forward Paul Millsap’s comments likening Sunday to an MMA fight. Throughout the week, Washington players were unapologetic for their physical style of play on Sunday (and repeatedly pointed out that Atlanta shot 39 free throws to the Wizards’ 17). Before the game Wednesday, Markieff Morris promised even more playoff intensity. If the Wizards were at all worried about inviting Game 2’s officials to call an even tighter game than Sunday’s crew — who blew their first whistle 17 seconds in — they sure didn’t seem like it.
For all the intensity talk, Wednesday did start off as a foul-fest. There were six called in the first eight minutes. The officiating crew ended up calling a total of 29 fouls on the Wizards … and 26 on the Hawks.
Worst surgeon: Not sure how Kelly Oubre Jr. planned to operate with those sunglasses on. Do they make scrubs that hit above the knee?
Best soundtrack: Verizon Center paid homage to the Wizards’ pseudo-alter egos Death Row DC on Wednesday by playing tracks exclusively from original Death Row artists when Washington had the ball. The music fit in well with a particularly energetic playoff crowed.
Wizards DJ is digging in the crates & playing nothing but Death Row Records music – Snoop, Pac – on Washington's offensive possessions
— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) April 19, 2017
Worst best friends: Before tipoff, Dwight Howard and Marcin Gortat were messing around like old friends — Gortat was Howard’s backup when they both played for the Orlando Magic, and during pregame warm-ups, Howard came to the Wizards’ side of the court, bumped into Gortat and then dunked on him.
Unfortunately for Howard, Gortat wasn’t messing around once the whistle blew. The big man blocked his buddy’s shot three times in the first quarter. Gortat finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks.
— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) April 19, 2017
What you need to know
>> Sounds like this one will be chippy too: “They said we wrestling so I guess they don’t have a choice but to come out and play tougher,” Markieff Morris said, adding, “I guess if that’s MMA, then what we do next might be double MMA.”
>> It makes for a clear story line to follow in Game 2, one that could decide whether this will be a long or short series. The Hawks, who are supposed to have the frontcourt advantage, are preparing to bring it like they didn’t in Game 1. And they’re seeking more scrutiny of the way the Wizards attacked them, writes Jerry Brewer.
>> “[The Hawks are] going to be,” Marcin Gortat said. “I’m sure they’re going to be. They’re going to come out much stronger, much harder and, at the end of the day, I know Dwight going to bring it. I know this kid very well. The Dwight we seen in the first game, it was probably sleeping Dwight or sick Dwight, and the next game, tomorrow, he’s going to be really furious, so it’s going to be a much tougher game for us.”
>> For only the eighth time, the Capitals and Wizards will play postseason games on the same day Wednesday, with the Capitals in Toronto for Game 4 and the Wizards at Verizon Center for Game 2. Both contests are scheduled to start at 7 p.m., which means you’ll need a second screen and/or nimble fingers to keep tabs on both games.
>> In his playoff debut, Hawks rookie Taurean Prince scored 10 of his 14 points in the second half and though he might have been a bit of an enigma, by Monday afternoon Otto Porter declared: “He’s definitely in our film as of today, so we’re going to pay more attention to him.” Porter, matching up with the first-year man, played with the moxie and force of a playoff veteran.
>> As everything seemed to be coming together for Washington at just the right time, the Wizards’ bench took a step backward — especially in the first half. The second unit looked discombobulated, couldn’t find their shots and gave up an 11-point first-quarter lead the Wizards didn’t regain until a three-pointer from Otto Porter Jr. gave them an edge early in the third period. Washington’s reserves didn’t play like the group that helped turn around a once-dismal season. The dominant third quarter that all but spelled out a win for Washington was almost entirely of the starters’ design. For Coach Scott Brooks, that’s a problem.
>> The most interesting comments after Washington’s Game 1 win over Atlanta likely came via Hawks star Paul Millsap. “The difference in the game was we were playing basketball,” he said, “and they were playing MMA.” The Wizards have not attracted any sort of reputation as a brutish team this season, and they spoke of Sunday’s debut as a normal affair, spiced with postseason intensity but nothing remarkable.
>> John Wall was incredible in the third quarter of Game 1, but he might have been even better than you think: The Wizards outscored the Hawks by 43.5 net points per 100 possessions in that frame with Wall scoring in transition, off the pick and roll and on drives to the basket. The guard’s effective field goal percentage (77.8 percent) was light-years ahead of his regular season performance (48.2 eFG percent).
>> A die-hard Wizards fan was crushed by John Wall, who was going for a loose ball late in Game 1. His reaction? “I took most of the impact for him because we can’t afford to have him being hurt, especially with Atlanta being such a dirty team. … I saved our best player, and if that’s what it takes, thank God.”
>> Marcin Gortat was struggling badly but recently he has looked more like the player who once anchored a very good Wizards starting lineup. And all it took was for his backup to get hurt. Gortat’s mini resurgence — in Game 82 of the regular season, he made 8-of-9 shots for 16 points against Miami and he outplayed Dwight Howard in Game 1, scoring 14 points (7 of 11) with 10 rebounds and two blocks — comes as Ian Mahinmi recovers from a left calf strain.
>> Markieff Morris gave the Wizards their social media nickname, Death Row DC. It’s kind of an inside joke. It’s also kind of serious. “Death Row; that’s the type of team we are, that’s the type of team we want to be,” Bradley Beal said. Which is what, exactly? “A physical team that will kind of trash talk you a little bit, and that just don’t take no BS,” Beal said. “That’s pretty much it.” And Morris’s prints are already stamped all over this first-round playoff series.
>> In Game 1, the Wizards didn’t exactly take control and make their superiority undeniable, but they did set the kind of tone that you doubted they could establish as they meandered through the final few weeks of the regular season, writes Jerry Brewer.
>> John Wall was simply amazing in Game 1. The all-star guard scored a playoff-career high 32 points and dished out 14 assists, as the Wizards held off the Hawks, 114-107. He also found a steady complement in Markieff Morris.
>> This NBA playoff run is the most important of John Wall’s career, writes Post columnist Jerry Brewer. It could shatter the false perception that he’s a player who is not quite elite. It could elevate Wall, 26, to a level of respect that he’ll boldly tell you is overdue.
>> How do the Wizards and Hawks match up? We break it down, position by position.
>> The Wizards stunning turnaround from a 2-8 start to a 49-win season began during a 1-2 road trip in December. “One thing I’ll say about this team, nobody threw coach under the bus,” John Wall said. “ … Then we started to have a stretch of a lot of home games when we started to win and win and win and finding a way to win a couple games on the road. I think that’s what built our confidence back and then we were like, ‘We’re a pretty damn good team.’ ” Here are the five most important games of the Wizards’ season.
>> The Wizards’ last trip to the postseason ended in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. The team that jettisoned Washington? The Atlanta Hawks. This isn’t 2015, however, and the Wizards are welcoming this playoff series against the Hawks. Part of that is the addition of Markieff Morris to keep up with four-time all-star Paul Millsap, who has given the Wizards plenty of trouble in the past. “We’ve been going at it all year,” Morris said about playing Millsap. “It’s a matchup I’m definitely looking forward to in the playoffs. We’re going to get it in, for sure. It’s going to be a good one.”
>> When the Wizards began the season by losing eight of their first 10 games, Ernie Grunfeld‘s 14-year tenure as the team’s general manger was quickly called into question. Washington is now 49-33 and has home-court advantage for the first round. The team’s success is in no small part due to Grunfeld, who has held an unshakable belief in the Wizards’ core of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr., as well as the organization’s long-held strategy, referred to simply as “The Plan.” Throughout all the ups and downs, Grunfeld remained patient, and now he’s reaping the results.
>> Scott Brooks calls D.C. a “magical” city. You’ll be forgiven for thinking Brooks might have a bit of magic about himself. Maybe his first 10 months in this city could have gone better, but it’s hard to imagine how. He helped turn a .500 team with a downtrodden fan base into an Eastern Conference heavyweight, boasting the best record in the East since Dec. 1. He won Washington’s first division title in 38 years, clinched home-court advantage in the opening round for the first time in 38 years, and flirted with 50 wins for the first time in 38 years.
>> The Hawks simply don’t have the personnel to keep John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. in check. But the Hawks pose a threat inside with the frontcourt combo of Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard, and if Atlanta should win, it will have more to do with how that pair dominates the paint than whether the Hawks stop the Wizards’ trio.
>> Post NBA reporter Tim Bontemps broke down all of the NBA’s first-round matchups ahead of Saturday’s kickoff. He predicted the Wizards would win in five games but would need John Wall and Bradley Beal to again play like they have in past postseasons.
>> We’ve got good news and bad news: Washington is the 13th team, including the 1987-88 Bullets, to qualify for the playoffs after starting 2-8 or worse since the NBA playoffs expanded to 16 teams in 1983-84. Now for the bad news: Teams that turned their seasons around after 10 games typically haven’t fared well in the postseason. In fact, the 2003-04 Miami Heat is the only team among the previous 12 to reach the postseason after starting 2-8 or worse to win even one series.
>> You know who does fear the Wizards? The Cavaliers, at least according to Charles Barkley. The TNT analyst and former star suggested Cleveland might actually prefer to finish second because it means it would avoid the mighty Washington Wizards until the Eastern Conference finals. No, really.
>> The side of the original Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street in Northwest D.C. got a fresh coat of paint just in time for the NBA playoffs. A new, temporary mural featuring Wizards guards John Wall and Bradley Beal now adorns the wall that had been bare since January, when the restaurant painted over five-year-old portraits of Bill Cosby, Barack Obama, Chuck Brown and DJ Donnie Simpson.