The physicality went up another notch Wednesday night, as the two teams were whistled for 29 fouls in the first 24 minutes of the contest, and combined to shoot 71 free throws on the night.
Washington managed to secure a commanding 2-0 series advantage by inverting the third and fourth quarter scores. The Wizards surrendered 35 third quarter points, while posting just 23, but clinched an eight-point victory by outscoring the Hawks 35-23 in the fourth quarter.
Here are the three primary factors that contributed to a 109-101 loss for the Atlanta Hawks.
No Answers For Washington’s Backcourt Combination
The primary concern for the Atlanta Hawks heading into the series was finding a way to limit the point production from the Washington duo of John Wall and Bradley Beal.
Both players combined to score 54 of the 114 points (47.3 percent) the Wizards scored in Game 1 and increased their productivity Wednesday.
Of the 109 points scored by Washington, 63 came from Beal and Wall (57.8 percent), as the duo simply took over the fourth quarter. During the final 12 minutes of the game, the Hawks simply couldn’t stop either player.
Wall and Beal closed out the contest by scoring 20 of the final 21 points for Washington. Both players seemingly couldn’t miss, as Wall connected on 3-of-4 attempts and Beal knocked down 6-of-9 shots, including two from beyond the arc.
Wall continually initiated contact, part of the reason so many fouls were called, earning 15 trips to the free throw line on the night.
Beal matched a playoff career-high by connecting four times from beyond the arc, including a three-pointer from the wing with 38 seconds remaining to end any hopes of an Atlanta comeback.
The Hawks backcourt combination of Dennis Schroder and Tim Hardaway Jr. combined for 42 points, but needed 35 shots to accumulate the total, as Washington limited them to 37.1 percent shooting from the field.
One of the primary advantages for the Atlanta Hawks entering the series seemed to be the matchup at the center position. Prior to the first game of the series, Howard had averaged 19.1 points and 14.1 rebounds per game throughout his career in the post season.
Washington center Marcin Gortat has shut down Howard, the same center he was the primary backup for during their stint in Orlando five years ago.
The Hawks attempted to establish Howard early in the contest, as he scored four of the first six points for the team. Midway through the opening quarter, Gortat sent a message, swatting away a pair of Howard’s layup attempts in a 30-second span.
Gortat finished the night with five blocks, the highest single-game total registered in the 2017 NBA Playoffs, while limiting Howard to just seven points. Atlanta experienced much of its offensive success when Howard was on the bench, as the team spread the floor with shooters.
Paul Millsap on Hawks’ small lineup success: “Our small lineup is better than theirs. Simple as that.”
Howard spent just 20 minutes on the court in Game 2, as he registered seven rebounds, one assist, one steal, one block and attempted just five shots. The 31-year-old was the only Hawks starter to score less than 10 points on the night.
Wizards Reserves Provided Key Contributions
Throughout the regular season, Washington struggled to produce when its reserves were out on the floor. The lack of production was so jarring that Gortat felt the need to call out the backup players, declaring the Wizards bench was the worst in the league.
The statistics supported Gortat’s claim, as Washington averaged just 27 points per game from its bench. Only the Timberwolves received less.
Foul trouble to the starting forward combination of Otto Porter Jr. and Markieff Morris prompted head coach Scott Brooks to turn to his reserves early in the contest, a move that ultimately proved to be beneficial.
Jason Smith played one of his best games of the season, totaling eight points, eight rebounds, two blocks, an assist and a steal in 28 minutes.
Brandon Jennings converted 4-of-5 shot attempts as he poured in 10 points and while Bojan Bogdanovic struggled shooting the ball at 1-for-7 from the field, he still produced six points and six rebounds.
Washington’s reserves outscored the Hawks 25-14, even with two fewer players spending time on the court. The Hawks kept the game close in the first half as Kent Bazemore scored eight points, but he didn’t score again for the rest of the game.