Published: Wed, April 19, 2017
Culture | By Henry Herrera

Wall scores playoff-best 32 as Wizards beat Hawks in Game 1


The Wiz Kids swept the Toronto Raptors in the first round then took Game 1 of the Eastern Semifinals against the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks.

Patrick Patterson (Toronto Raptors) and Rajon Rondo (Chicago Bulls) will represent the United Kingdom in the Eastern Conference while Trey Lyles (Utah Jazz), Enes Kanter (Oklahoma City Thunder) and Andrew Harrison (Memphis Grizzlies) will battle in the West. He shot just 32.9 percent against the Hawks in four games this season. The victor of the series will face the victor of the Boston Celtics-Chicago Bulls first round matchup.

At one point during his undressing of the Hawks to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, Wall pointed toward the floor while the crowd bellowed. Here's a look at their matchups in the 2016-2017 campaign.

These two teams split their season series 2-2. (21 points) and Paul Millsap (28 points). And Schroder and Howard would never really demonstrate any more assertiveness or physicality in their defensive play as the game progressed. Then in the third quarter, John Wall starting pushing the ball at every opportunity, and the Wizards' offense began to click. Marcin Gortat, in similar fashion, provided a spark with a few highlight-worthy dunks. Departures of veterans and growth of his own into that label now make the Wizards Wall's show more than ever.

But the biggest improvement in Washington is health that contributed to a 49-win season. Kyle Korver missed a shot at the buzzer that would have tied the game up at the end of regulation. The Hawks won six of their last nine games.

Washington, 8-9 since March 13, has a clear backcourt advantage, but won't have backup center Ian Mahinmi (calf) for the start of the series.

The Wizards were resilient in this one.

For 24 minutes of the franchise's first playoff home opener since the 1979 NBA Finals, the Wizards absorbed repeated body shots from a Hawks team that reached the free-throw line 22 times and led by as many as eight. Atlanta went on a 12-3 run with less than three minutes left in the game, but Wall was able to score on an uncontested off the dribble jumper to give the Wizards a comfortable cushion for the victory.

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Washington finished with a credible 41-41 record last season but changed coaches after missing the playoffs. Both teams are drastically different now.

It starts with Millsap and Howard. He has thrived under head coach Scott Brooks' teachings and has finally tapped into his star potential. A lot can change in two years.

But his Wizards' fortune this season has been hard-earned. He can make those at a 40-something percent clip.

On the season, the Wizards are averaging 109.2 points, 42.9 rebounds and 23.9 assists per game. One role where this would be particularly useful is as an offensive rebounder. Millsap is the one player Atlanta absolutely needs. Despite being past his prime, Howard is still an interior presence - especially on the boards. "I know it's going to be tough battle". Morris and Gortat only need to play Millsap and Howard to a draw - or close to a draw - and there's virtually no chance Atlanta can win the series.

Is this the new norm for Markieff Morris? . Washington will have to rebound as a team in order to negate the Hawks' hard-hat big men. Everything is better. His scoring has improved, his understanding of defenses has grown, even his press conferences are smoother since he has slowed his diction. Few players are more unsafe with a head of steam in pick-and-roll situations, and the Hawks might have made a mistake by dropping back and giving him room to see the floor.

John Wall is a superstar no doubt.

Atlanta reported no injuries ahead of today's meeting. But it was avoidable, had the Atlanta Hawks done the small things right.

John Wall had perhaps the most dominant performance during the opening weekend of the 2017 National Basketball Association playoffs. "It did concern me, but I like guys that play with effort". It was his first full season in Washington.

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