Since the end of the Washington Wizards’ Game 1 victory over the Atlanta Hawks, mixed martial arts has become the subplot of the series. Hawks forward Paul Millsap alleged the Wizards participated more in that combat sport than they did in actually playing basketball. By Wednesday morning, the back-and-forth continued as forward Markieff Morris, speaking to reporters for the first time since Sunday’s game, addressed those comments with a touch of wit and scorn.
With Game 2 coming Wednesday night, Morris promised more intensity and toughness — and how the Verizon Center floor better be ready to transform into an octagon.
“They said we wrestling so I guess they don’t have a choice but to come out and play tougher,” Morris said. “It is what is. We ain’t going to stop our intensity because of what they say. We’re going to keep playing as hard as possible and playoff basketball.”
When asked if he was “humored” by Millsap’s postgame comments, Morris didn’t laugh.
“Just see where he’s at now,” Morris responded. “I guess if that’s MMA, then what we do next might be double MMA.”
Maybe Morris wasn’t tickled by Millsap’s MMA reference but he couldn’t help but find the irony. During Game 1, the Wizards were penalized often while playing defense and the Hawks shot 39 free throws, including 22 in the first half. Washington attempted just 17.
“It’s the playoffs, man. They shot 39 free throws. How much more do you want?” Morris said, when asked if he thought Game 2 would be more closely officiated because of the previous physical acts. “I guess if we’re playing MMA, they’re giving y’all the fouls. So you know, that didn’t change. We just want to stay aggressive. That’s all we want to do. Not worry about what they saying.”
Later, John Wall held a separate session with reporters and his words and tone echoed Morris’s indignation.
“Yeah, totally, c’mon. We shot what, something, 17 free throws? To [their] 39,” Wall said. “If we [were] playing MMA, it looked like they got most of the calls. We didn’t.”
Both players, who have clearly paid attention to the sound bites and stories emanating from the Georgetown gymnasium where the Hawks practiced this week, referenced more recent comments from the other side. Wall said he heard Dwight Howard wanted to play more physically. Morris brought up another interview with Millsap.
“We’ve got our own adjustments so we’re basically worried about ourselves. I heard Millsap saying they don’t want Brad and John to score as much and they want to let us score — basically is what he’s saying. We’re going to adjust to that real well,” Morris pledged. “We’re going to stay physical and stay playing MMA basketball.”
Morris admitted to being a “big fan of MMA” (you can’t make up this stuff) and has embraced his role as the team’s enforcer. While it appeared that he relished the moment to verbally jab back at Millsap, Morris also stressed the importance of not turning the game into a one-on-one.
“I’m worried about my team. It ain’t between me and him,” Morris said. “I’m worried about winning. That’s it. I could care less what he says.”