Two years ago, the Washington Wizards lost to the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference semifinals as Paul Pierce’s 3-point shot was waved off. The revenge tour began Sunday with the Wizards earning a hard-fought 114-107 victory, giving them an early 1-0 advantage in the series.
After a hot start for the Wizards, Atlanta’s bench made a run of its own and controlled the game through halftime and during most of the third quarter, but John Wall was not going to let the chance to gain a series lead go to waste. He seemingly took over and willed the Wizards to a win, with the help of his teammates, of course.
Wall finished with 32 points, 14 assists, 4 rebounds, and 1 emphatic block as the Wizards won in front of the home crowd. Wizards fans have gotten too used to seeing huge blocks from Wall, coming out of nowhere and making the defense think before they ever throw up a layup.
When Game 2 is played on Wednesday, Washington’s bench is going to have to be able to hold onto a lead when they come into the game. For Scott Brooks to be able to keep his starters fresh for a long playoff run, he can’t be forced to play his core for most of the game. With a better effort coming from the bench, the starters can rest and save some of their energy for down the road.
Expect the rest of this series to be extremely physical as it was in the opener. Atlanta credited Washington’s physicality for their win, and admitted they must bring the same mindset in order to compete if the refs are going to let the rough play go by.
Game 2 is going to be a must-win for Atlanta as they must steal a game from Washington while playing at Verizon Center in order to win the series. With how well the Wizards played at home this year, it will be hard to do, but they need to find a way to earn that road win sooner rather than later. As long as Washington is able to control home court, they will remain in the driver’s seat, but they would ideally like to end the series as quickly as possible.
This series is going to be a fun one. Stay tuned.