Five observations from the Hawks’ 114-107 loss to the Wizards in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series Sunday.
1. The Hawks entered the game with the No. 1 priority of stopping the Wizards in transition. They didn’t do a great job in the first half as they committed 12 turnovers and the Wizards had 17 fastbreak points.
Still, the Hawks led 48-45 at intermission.
The Wizards outscored the Hawks 38-28 in the third quarter and they took control of the game even though the Hawks had only four turnovers. For the game, the Hawks finished with 21 turnovers.
“We were ahead at halftime and 17 fastbreak points was something we felt we could really improve on,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “To some degree we did that. The game obviously changed. It will continue to be an emphasis. I think we can be better there. It’s not the only thing. We have to do a lot of things well.”
2. John Wall took over in the third quarter. He scored 15 points to single-handedly bring the Wizards back from a deficit to take the lead for good. At one point he was seen pointing at the floor.
What was that about?
“This is my house,” Wall said after the game.
Who is to argue with the point guard after his performance?
“Just being aggressive,” said Wall, who was 12 of 24 from the field.
“It’s tough, he’s a good player,” Paul Millsap said of Wall. “We’ll have to figure something out. He’s going to get his, that’s the problem, so we can’t have guys like (Markieff) Morris with 20.”
3. You knew coming into the series that the Wizards’ main two weapons were Wall and Beal. Much of the Hawks’ defensive scheme is built on stopping the two guards.
The Wizards will have to ride the two stars.
The Wizards were up by 11 points in the first quarter. They trailed by four points at halftime. The Hawks clawed back into the game with Wall and Beal on the bench.
One NBA scout said during the Hawks’ comeback that “The Wizards are going to have to play the (expletive) out of Wall and Beal.”
For the game, the Hawks bench was a combined plus-35. The Wizards bench was a combined minus-53.
Wall finished with a game-high 32 points. Beal struggled early, going 3 of 10 for seven points. However, he finished with 22 points with a strong second half.
The Wizards changed rotations and did not take both guards out at the same time in the second half.
4. While the Hawks work to contain Wall and Beal, they have to win in their other matchups. That means Millsap and Howard. The Hawks may not able to stop Wall and Beal but they sure can’t win the series if Morris plays Millsap even.
Millsap finished with 19 points. He was 5 of 8 from the field and 9 of 11 from the free-throw line. Morris got into him defensively and bothered him. Morris also had some key 3-pointers and dunks and finished with 21 points.
Howard scored just seven points but had 14 rebounds. The Hawks center had a double-double if all four regular-season matchups with the Wizards. His counterpart, Marcin Gortat, finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
5. Thabo Sefolosha, the Hawks’ regular starting small forward, did not play in the game. Sefolosha played the final two games of the regular season after missing eight games with a right groin strain.
Budenholzer elected to stay with rookie Taurean Prince as a starter. It appears he will remain there.
“As we finished the season and Thabo missed a significant period of time in the middle of the season and again late,” Budenholzer said of his decision not to play Sefolosha. “This was the rotation that we went with. He’s healthy. It’s good to know that Thabo is there and I’m sure he’ll have a role and he’ll stay ready. To go more than 10 deep is not easy but he’s a heck of an option to have at 11. We continue to consider what is best for our group.”
Prince finished with 14 points and six rebounds. Wizards’ small forward Otto Porter Jr, who has hurt the Hawks this season, finished with 10 points.