ATLANTA — The point guards involved in the first-round Eastern Conference playoff series between the Atlanta Hawks and the Washington Wizards likely will have a decisive role in determining which team moves on.
Atlanta’s Dennis Schroder and Washington’s John Wall have been two of the focal points in the series, which the Wizards lead 2-1. Game 4 will be played Monday night at Philips Arena.
Schroder is averaging 25 points and Wall 31 points through the first three contests.
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Schroder scored 27 in Game 3, while Wall also ended the night with 29 after opening with back-to-back 32 point efforts.
The Wizards may try to turn up the heat on Schroder in the next game. It is a tactic that opponents — like such as the Boston Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas — try to use to get inside Schroder’s head.
“We probably have to pressure him a little more, make him uncomfortable, try to get the shot clock down,” Wall said.
While Schroder didn’t score his first points in the second half until 7:36 remained in the fourth quarter, he didn’t shy away from becoming a playmaker. He also scored seven points in the fourth quarter.
“He certainly was active and very good early, but he’s played well,” Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said. “He’s getting to the basket, getting to the paint and finishing and making shots … (and) then he was involving his teammates.”
Wall was almost unstoppable at times. He made 10 of 12 shots from the field and 8 of 10 from the line. Twice he went the length of the court on a fastbreak and finished with a layup. But Schroder was more active on defense and helped prevent Wall from getting the offense in motion.
“I watched video,” Schroder said. “The first two games it was too easy to just bring it up half-court and have all these passes. I told Coach I want to be in his stuff. I want to take him full court. That’s what I did (Saturday), and it worked well.”
Wall had little help in Game 3 from running mate Bradley Beal, who followed his 31-point effort in Game 2 with 12 points. Beal made only 6 of 20 from the field and was 0 of 6 on 3-point attempts on Saturday.
“You know what? I like his looks,” Washington coach Scott Brooks said of Beal. “I’ve been saying for the last couple of games, I like his shots. He’s just going to have to keep shooting them.
“We’re going to have to keep getting him open looks like we have. Every player will go through a stretch of games — a few games — where you’re not going to shoot the ball well. He’ll bounce back. The guy’s a big winner, and he’s going to come out and make shots, hopefully next game.”
The other subtext for the series is the matchup between Washington’s Markieff Morris and Atlanta’s Paul Millsap. Morris accused Millsap of being soft after the Hawks forward complained about the physical nature of the first game.
Millsap had 29 points and 14 rebounds in Game 3, and Morris had nine points and six rebounds. It didn’t prevent Morris from getting in Millsap’s face after knocking down an innocuous 3-pointer.
“It definitely got personal now,” Millsap said. “I don’t care. So what? Take this loss and go back to the hotel and be ready for the next game.”
Washington will again be without backup center Ian Mahinmi, who has missed three games with a strained left calf. He took part in the pregame warmups on Saturday and is expected to be available for Game 5.
Washington’s Otto Porter Jr. left Game 3 with a neck injury in the second half. His status is uncertain.
The series will return to Washington for the fifth game on Wednesday.