The opening round of the 2017 NBA playoffs is heading back to Washington tied 2-2 after the Atlanta Hawks decisive fourth quarter performance clinched a Game 4 victory Monday night.
The Atlanta Hawks were supremely confident in their ability to hold serve at home during the opening round of the playoffs.
After dropping each of the first two games of the series following late game meltdowns, the Hawks head back to the Verizon Center for Game 5 with an even series against the Washington Wizards following a 111-101 victory Monday night.
Article continues below ...
Atlanta avoided falling behind 3-1 in the series, a feat only overcome 18 times in NBA playoff history as seven players scored in double figures, a balanced attack with none scoring more than 19.
Several factors went into the Hawks’ ability to send the opening round of the 2017 NBA playoffs back to Washington tied, let’s examine three key aspects.
Starting point guard Dennis Schroder was limited to just 10 minutes in the first half as he picked up three quick fouls. Jose Calderon filled in admirably, as he totaled 10 points, five assists and two rebounds.
Only the efforts of Schroder were needed as the contest entered the fourth quarter tied at 77. Atlanta responded by pouring in 34 points, as Schroder navigated anywhere he wanted on the court.
Schroder scored 10 of the final 11 points on the night for the Hawks, as he knocked down 4-of-6 attempts from the field and sank a pair of 3-pointers that ended any hopes of a Wizards comeback.
The efforts of Schroder, combined with the potent scoring of Paul Millsap were too much for Washington in the fourth quarter.
Millsap opened the contest shooting 3-for-11 from the field, but then erupted in the fourth quarter. During the final period of the game, the four-time All-Star delivered 10 points, four rebounds, two assists and a steal.
Even improbable shots he hoisted at the rim found their way to the bottom of the net in the fourth quarter.
By the time the final buzzer sounded, Millsap had posted 19 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and two steals while relegating Markieff Morris as a non-factor.
In their first meeting since Morris dubbed Millsap a crybaby, Washington’s starting power forward was held to nine points on 3-of-10 shooting and was limited to 24 minutes, the fewest of any starter on either team, as he spent most of the night in foul trouble.
Atlanta Held Wizards Role Players In Check
The Atlanta Hawks shifted their focus from trying to contain the star players for Washington to relegating the rest of the team.
Of the 422 points scored by the Wizards through the first four games of the series, 212 have been scored by the backcourt combination of John Wall and Bradley Beal. The duo has combined to pour in 50.2 percent of their teams’ scoring against Atlanta.
Once again both players were the catalysts for Washington, as the combination totaled 80 minutes on the floor as Wall totaled 22 points, 10 assists, five rebounds and two steals. Beal added 32 points, five rebounds, five made 3-point field goals, two rebounds and two steals.
The Wizards spent the rest of the night searching for production from elsewhere.
Aside from Wall and Beal, the seven other players that spent time on the floor combined to score 47 points on 18-of-43 (41.9 percent) shooting from the floor. Only two other Washington players, Otto Porter Jr. and Bojan Bogdanovic, submitted a scoring total in double figures on the night.
The starting center for the Atlanta Hawks wasn’t playing well coming into Game 4. But after totaling 18 points and 32 rebounds in the first three games of the series, and failing to post a double-double, Howard submitted his finest performance of the 2017 playoffs.
By halftime, Howard had already tallied a double-double, while the Wizards simply couldn’t contain him in the paint. On consecutive possessions, Hawks forward Kent Bazemore just lobbed passes at the rim and allowed Howard to finish.
Howard even took his frustrations out on the Wizards on the defensive end. A third quarter layup attempt from Wall was emphatically sent into the stands by Howard, extending his streak to 14 playoff games with at least one block.
The 6-foot-11 center closed out the game with 16 points, 15 rebounds, a block, an assist and even managed to connect on 4-of-5 free throw attempts.