Wall and Beal land another blow; stretch Wizards’ series lead to 2-0

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 19:  John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards reacts after making a shot in the second half of the Wizards 109-101 win over the Atlanta Hawks in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Verizon Center on April 19, 2017 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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If that’s what an MMA bout is like, I’m out for the count.

In a foul-filled and disrupted Game 2 on Wednesday night play stopped and started like a DVD with a scratch.

Just days after Hawks forward Paul Millsap compared the Wizards physical style in Game 1 to mixed martial arts, 55 total fouls were called and 71 free throw attempted in a brutal contest.

So, let’s fast forward to the final quarter where the Wizards erased a four-point deficit and squeezed out another win to stretch the series lead to 2-0.

And this time, the story starts with a Wizards point guard not named John Wall.

That’s right, the Pterodactyl (thanks Basketball Reference), aka Phil Jackson exile, aka Brandon Jennings showed tonight that mid-season buy-out guys can make a difference late in April.

In the space of about two minutes, Jennings knocked down three jumpers to keep the Wizards within striking distance before dishing off an assist to Jason Smith for a dunk to tie the game up at 84 within eight minutes to go.

The Wizards took the lead moments later – and then Wall reentered for Jennings; Coach Scott Brooks determining the Jennings express had taken the team far enough.

“He came in, he gave us energy, he made some shots,” Brooks said.

“That’s how he plays. He plays with a chip on his shoulder. He plays with an edge.

“I thought those 4-5 minutes that he was out there, he was active on the defensive end and then did a good job of getting himself some shots,” Brooks said, before adding, “It’s good for him to make a couple of shots. He works on it everyday. He hasn’t made a lot of them”.

He’s not wrong. Before tonight Jennings was just 29/104 from the field since joining the Wizards in March – and shooting just 20% in his past 10 outings.

However, his ability to score in bunches make him a valuable weapon for the Wizards – particularly in the second unit on a night where it was searching for inspiration.

We now resume regular programming: enter John Wall with six minutes to go and the Wizards down 87-86.

Over the course of the final six minutes, Wall, along with his backcourt buddy, Bradley Beal took over, hitting big shot after big shot down the stretch.

For the quarter, the Wizards 1-2 punch outscored the Hawks 24-23.

However, the signature moment came with just 38 seconds left: by this point, the Wizards were up five but Wall found Beal for a deep three – raising his hands in jubilation before the ball even hit the net.

“When he shoot it. It’s game over,” Wall said post-game.

“I did it earlier, like I think transition I was pushing and I pitched it back to him and he missed it and then I think on a play or two later he had like one on a floppy play he was wide open and missed and he was kind of frustrated with himself and I was like, ‘Nah, those are great looks, we’re going to keep finding you, you know, those shots are going to come to you and you’re going to make ’em’.

“He ended up making a big one for us and sealing the deal,” Wall said.

“He doesn’t care if I shoot the ball 100 times in the game or how many I make or miss,” Beal added after shooting 12/27 from the field.

“He wants me to shoot the ball and he says he trusts me more than anybody on the team to take those big shots and be able to knock ’em down.

“So, that’s a great feeling when your PG [point guard] has that confidence in you,” Beal said.

Tonight, the pair became the first Washington duo to both score 30-plus points in a playoff game since 1986.

While the Wizards continue to set records – they were lucky to escape with the win on Wednesday night

The Hawks were much better in Game 2 and had their chances to steal it. Paul Millsap was relentless, leading Atlanta with 27 points and 10 rebounds. The Hawks star forward again got to the free throw line for 15 freebies.

His thoughts on the officiating after the MMA remarks?

“I liked it,” Millsap remarked.

“Dennis Schroeder held his own too (23 points) but was still no match for John Wall.

The series now moves to Atlanta on Saturday. It may be 2-0 but things are only warming up.

“I think they got home court advantage, they played off of that but to us it’s zero to zero,” Millsap said.

“We’re going back to Atlanta. We feel like we’re still confident.

“So, to us it’s zero to zero”.


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