Washington Wizards guard John Wall, in suit, celebrates with guard Ramon Sessions (7) during a break in the first half of Game 3 of the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks, Saturday, May 9, 2015, in Washington. Wall is out with a hand injury. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Washington opened the week on the road against the Atlanta Hawks in their divisional round series against the top-ranked team in the Eastern Conference. But, the Wizards were primed and ready for a showdown. It was a good news/bad news type of week for the District. The Wizards escaped the week with a 2-1 lead against the 60-win Hawks, but they lost all-star point guard John Wall indefinitely with a series of fractures in his non-shooting hand. Washington has played steadily in his absence and now have a grip on the series. The AFRO recaps the week that was for the Washington Wizards.
May 3: Wizards Begins Series with 104-98 Win
The Atlanta Hawks showed some weaknesses in their opening round against the eighth-seeded Brooklyn Nets and the Wizards made sure to capitalize in their road opener to commence the series. Washington overcame an 11-point first quarter deficit to upend Atlanta 104-98. Six players scored in double figures for Washington, who was led by Bradley Beal’s 28 points and seven rebounds. Wall struggled with his shooting in his last full game before he sustained a wrist injury in the first half, but still added18 points, 13 assists and seven rebounds. Washington’s defense clamped down in the second half against the high-powered Hawks offense, suffocating their three-point shooters and slowing down the Hawks’ fast break attack. Atlanta scored 37 points in the opening quarter but could only muster 35 points in the second half as the Wizards turned an early deficit into a double-digit lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.
May 5: Without Wall, Wizards Give Way to Hawks in 106-90 Loss
Going into Game Two in Atlanta, Washington had a chance to put a stake into their opponent’s hearts with a win and a 2-0 series lead. And, for a moment, it appeared as if the Wizards might just pull off the feat until Washington ran out of gas down the stretch with Wall sidelined. Reserve point guard Ramon Sessions inherited the start and added 21 points and four assists. However, despite five Wizards scoring in double-figures, Atlanta outlasted Washington 106-90 in a run-and-gun affair. Atlanta hosted a five-point lead after three quarters but saves their best quarter for the last as they outscored the Wizards by 11 points in the final period. It was a game the Hawks needed. and they appeared to be the hungrier team. It was a wake-up call for the Wizards playing without Wall but the experience would serve them well in their next outing.
Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) tries to shoot between Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford (15), from the Dominican Republic, and guard Kyle Korver (26) in the first half of Game 3 of the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs Saturday, May 9, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
May 9: Wizards Clinch Nail-Biter in 103-101 Victory
Game Three in Washington was a Saturday night heart-stopper for the home crowd at the Verizon Center. With Wall still sidelined with a wrist injury, Washington wasted no time jumping out to a big lead. Three games into the series, it’s been a team effort so far into the series—numerous players have stood out and that theme was never more evident than Saturday night. Five players scored in double figures, including a standout performance from reserve forward Otto Porter, who tied for the team lead with 17 points while adding nine rebounds and four assists. Both Beal and Nenê chipped in with 17 points apiece, helping Washington run out to a 21-point lead in the second half. Atlanta was resilient, however, storming back to tie the game at 101-101 with 12 seconds remaining. With Wall in dress clothes and the crowd deflated, Wizards head coach Randy Wittman drew up an isolation play for Paul Pierce and it worked like a charm. Pierce held the ball in the middle of the floor, draining some seconds off the clock. Surrounded by three defenders, Pierce stepped back and faded away as his jump shot kissed the glass to drop into the net with no time remaining on the clock, sending the Verizon Center into a frenzy and Washington to a 2-1 lead.
Next: Washington will resume the series May 11 at home with a chance to take a major step toward securing the series. Wall’s status remains unclear, but the way the Wizards are playing, it may be encouraging for Wall to continue to recover as his team continues to excel in his absence.