Millsap: Wall and Beal, not Morris, remain focus of Hawks


Paul Millsap is not about to let Markieff Morris get in his head.

The Hawks veteran power forward said he’s been around too long to let a physical battle with one player become the focus of the playoff series against the Wizards.

The Wizards took Game 1 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round matchup with a 114-107 victory Sunday afternoon. The Hawks lost the game and, to a great extent, were on the receiving end of much of the physical play.

No matter what happened between Millsap and Morris — an exchange of heated words and a little more — the Hawks’ focus remains on the Wizards backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal, the foundation of the franchise.

“I think it’s important that we control the other two guys, Beal and Wall,” Millsap said Monday after the Hawks’ practice on the campus of Georgetown University. “They are extensive scorers. I’m not going to turn this into a personal battle between me and Morris.

“That’s what he wants me to do, take all the focus off the team and put it on him. I’m not going to do that. I’ve been in the league too long. It’s about the team and stopping those two guys, the head of the snake which is John Wall, and we’ll give ourselves a really good chance to win.”

Wall finished with a game-high 32 points, including 15 in a decisive third quarter, to lead the Wizards. Morris scored 21 points with seven rebounds and four blocks while providing defensive presence against Millsap. Millsap finished with 19 points and two rebounds.

When asked following the game about the difference in the outcome, Millsap said “We were playing basketball. They were playing MMA (Mixed Martial Arts).”

Millsap stood by his comment on Monday and he and teammates acknowledged the Hawks need to raise their physical play. This is the playoffs after all.

“That is playoff basketball intensity,” Millsap said. “We have to step it up a notch and play that style too. If we can get out there and be that kind of aggressive, we’ll be OK.”

Center Dwight Howard, no stranger to infighting in the pivot, concurred.

“It’s fine,” Howard said. “If they allowed both teams to play as physical, I would love that. We have to continue to play no matter what happens. We can’t get involved with the refs or anything like that. We just have to focus in on what we can control. If we play hard, we should win the game.”

Prior to the series, Morris essentially called Millsap soft by advising Washington reports to refer to him as a power forward but refer to Millsap as a stretch-4. Millsap is listed at 6-feet-8 and 246 pounds while Morris is 6-10 and 245.

Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said he was made aware of Millsap’s postgame comment. While he believes the biggest issue for his team was its transition defense, he acknowledge the Wizards were the aggressor.

“My general thought is they were the aggressor for more of the 48 minutes than we were,” Budenholzer said. “They are probably more physical for more of the 48 minutes than we were. … Generally speaking, us being better in a lot of areas is probably more important and understanding it’s part of the playoffs. To do some degree, we have to raise our aggressiveness, our physicality, and improve in a lot of other areas.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Atlanta Hawks

Hawks practice report: ‘gifted and talented’ defensively, ‘learning curve’ on offense
Hawks practice report: ‘gifted and talented’ defensively, ‘learning curve’ on offense

Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer likes Ersan Ilyasova’s defensive grit. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com) Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said the Hawks will use the same starting five at Dallas to open the season: Dennis Schroder, Kent Bazemore, Taurean Prince, Ersan Ilyasova and Dewayne Dedmon. Budenholzer thinks that can be a good group...
Will the Hawks NBA’s worst team? Experts make their predictions
Will the Hawks NBA’s worst team? Experts make their predictions

Taurean Prince (left), Dennis Schroder and coach Mike Budenholzer are key factors for Hawks this season. (AP Photo) The NBA season starts tonight. The Hawks open at Dallas tomorrow. Here is a collection of season predictions for the Hawks. FiveThirtyEight.com Projected wins (rank): 26 (29th out of 30) Notes: FiveThirtyEight’s predictions use...
Hawks agree to contract with point guard Isaiah Taylor
Hawks agree to contract with point guard Isaiah Taylor

Hawks GM Travis Schlenk. (HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM) The Hawks have agreed to a contract with point guard prospect Isaiah Taylor. The two-year contract is partially guaranteed for 2017-18. Taylor will fill the Hawks’ 15th and final roster spot and play behind Dennis Schroder and Malcolm Delaney. The Hawks also...
Schroder faces discipline from Hawks after arrest
Schroder faces discipline from Hawks after arrest

The Hawks said guard Dennis Schroder will face future disciplinary action from the team following his arrest last month on a misdemeanor battery charge. In a statement released by the team on Monday, general manager Travis Schlenk said the team will let the legal process play out in Schroder’s case before making a final decision on discipline...
Hawks practice report: Budenholzer ‘open’ to 11-man rotation
Hawks practice report: Budenholzer ‘open’ to 11-man rotation

Could Tyler Dorsey be the 11th man? (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com) The Hawks want to play at a faster pace. They want to create more fast-break chances. They want to be an aggressive, scrappy defensive team. It will not be easy for the Hawks to do those things over 82 games. But it would help...
More Stories