No John Wall was almost like raising a white flag for the Washington Wizards, who fell apart in the fourth quarter as the Atlanta Hawks pulled away for a 106-90 win to make it a 1-1 series in the Eastern conference semifinals.
Wall, with a wrist injury, sat out the game, giving Ramon Sessions the opportunity to start. Sessions did score 21 points, but the Hawks would love it if he plays 40 minutes each night. Unlike Wall, he doesn’t create problems for the defense in each and every one of his drives to the basket. Wall can pass while in the air to difficult angles. Sessions can move the ball well, but that’s about it as far as playmaking goes.
The other playmaker on the floor, Jeff Teague, played in the pace that he likes, although he continues to struggle with his shooting, scoring just 9 points. He finished with 3-of-12 from the field and is shooting just 26.9% from the field in this series so far. But he’s one of those players that his high assist number (8 this time) says a lot more about what kind of game he and his team were having.
The Hawks didn’t shoot very well (43.5% from the field, 34.5% from beyond the arc), but they didn’t turn the ball over, enjoyed an awful game for Nene (2 points, 0-for-5 from the field, four turnovers) and 16 turnovers from the Wizards. Every time the Hawks got into the open court it felt like it would end in points, and the Wizards, without their best player, couldn’t counter with slower pace or with someone who actually knows how to dictate one.
DeMarre Carroll continues to be the Hawks main scorer with 22 points. It’s as if teams aren’t paying enough attention to him. So much focus is put on stopping Al Horford (18 points), Teague and Kyle Korver (12 points, all 3-pointers) that it has to give Carroll and Millsap open looks. Millsap had an 18-11 double double, but also some nice dishes (5 assists) and a very good day on defense. Not just stopping Nene, but forcing turnovers, ending up with 4 steals.
Unlike the previous game, the bench wasn’t a hindrance. Sure, the Hawks have a shorter bench now, but giving it less minutes is probably the way to go. Kent Bazemore scored 10 points, Dennis Schroder added 9 and Pero Antic, the 3-point shooting center, hit a couple of tres to finish with 8 points. The Wizards did get 15 points from Otto Porter, but that was it. Their offense in general looked bad and disoriented.
If Wall isn’t healthy for game 3 or the rest of this series, feeling he can’t handle the ball well, it’s over. Paul Pierce isn’t a bad floor general for the Wizards, but his ability to take a team on his back is limited. Sessions? He can score points, but Wall means a lot more than that to the Wizards. Just look at how Jeff Teague is running the Hawks without doing well in the shooting department.