Washington Wizards lacked energy and toughness against the Atlanta Hawks in Game-3 of the 2017 NBA Playoffs, leading to their first loss of the series.
Down 2-0 in the series, the Atlanta Hawks were desperate to get a win on their home court on Saturday night against the Washington Wizards.
Washington has played with that sort of “must-win” desperation all series long, but the Hawks, up until Game-3, failed to match their energy. But in Game-3, the script was flipped.
Literally right after tip-off, the Hawks gained ground on the Wizards. Paul Millsap got the ball inside and scored over Markieff Morris at will. Dennis Schroder carved Washington’s defense and John Wall lagged behind.
In mere moments, the Wizards found themselves down by double-digits, 17-4.
Some of the deficit could’ve been attributed to poor offensive execution. Washington was slow to
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get into their sets, and when they did, the players on the perimeter failed to knock down shots.
But their defense was basically nonexistent.
As the team’s leader and self-proclaimed “head of the snake,” it’s on Wall to set the tone for Washington.
Offensively, he was forced to take it upon himself as his teammates struggled to find their rhythm.
Wall scored 29 points, making 10 of his 12 attempted shot attempts.
Defensively, though, he left a lot to be desired.
Wall went under screens even though Schroder found his touch from outside the paint. That was likely the defensive scheme Scott Brooks set, but schemes are flexible.
If a team or player gets hot, continuing to go under screens won’t lead to stops. Over time, the deficit continued to grow and the lead became insurmountable.
The Wizards, including Wall, were sleep walking defensively. Offensively, (with the exception of Wall), they weren’t much better.
Bradley Beal scored just 12 points, missing 14 of his 20 shot attempts – half of which were wide open looks. For the Wizards to make a serious push in the playoffs and close out the Hawks, they’re going to need Beal to break out of his slump. A few times, Beal hung his head and appeared hesitant. That’s not indicative of a player with confidence.
Wall almost outscored the rest of the starting four. Otto Porter made 3 shots and sat out most of the game with a strained neck.
If there was one positive takeaway, it would’ve been the play of Washington’s second unit. Brandon Jennings sparked a late run, totaling 13 points off the bench. Washington cut the lead to 14, but were unable to capitalize on the momentum.
On Saturday, the Wizards played strictly basketball and lacked the “MMA” toughness that won them games one and two. Washington didn’t have an edge and appeared to have accepted defeat early in the first quarter.
Brooks and the rest of the team needs to quickly forget about the Game 3 loss and move forward. Players that struggled to shoot, including Beal, have to play with a similar attitude. If they allow the loss and poor shooting to bother them, the series will be tied up on Monday night.
The lack of energy, especially defensively, is unforgivable. Washington played the game like it was preseason – not Game 3 of the postseason. That was uncharacteristic of the team that dominated Atlanta in the first two games.