Wizards star guard John Wall sprinted his way to a playoff career-high 32 points plus 14 assists. "We're in a little bit of a unique position where, at least going into Game 1, the plan is to keep a deep rotation and play a lot of guys and continue to massage that". This 2016-17 season has been one of tremendous growth for Washington Wizards point guard John Wall.
WASHINGTON (AP) - After John Wall told Markieff Morris what to expect in his National Basketball Association playoff debut, the Washington Wizards' All-Star guard showed everyone his postseason best.
The Wizards ended the day with a 1-0 lead in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, which is about all they could have asked for on Sunday.
Indeed, after battling injuries late in the year, Atlanta has everyone ready to go against the Wizards, who won the season series 3-1. Conscious that he couldn't do it all himself, Wall embraced the role as defensive stopper and facilitator on Sunday. Whether the motivation came from his twin brother Marcus in the stands wearing Markieff's jersey or a pregame pep talk delivered by Wall, Morris came out turned up.
"I think he's played well", Budenholzer said before the game. "I was going to give him a 10", Brooks said. Both teams shot an eye-covering 33.3 percent from the field. Wizards guard Bradley Beal didn't let a 3 for 10 start stunt his confidence, and he finished 6 of 11 for 22 points.
That offense from Wall, Beal and Morris was enough to offset 25 points from Atlanta's Dennis Schroder and 19 from Paul Millsap, who wasn't pleased with Washington's physicality and exchanged words with Morris going into halftime.
"The difference in the game was we were playing basketball and they were playing MMA", Millsap said. The turnovers were rampant and the Hawks could have clobbered the Wizards on the boards if they could have played with a higher level of focus. He went up against Millsap most of the game and had a dunk off the ally oop during the Wizards' big third quarter when they went on a 20-7 run. "Usually the aggressor is rewarded". His scoring helped the Wizards erode their deficit and trade it for a double-digit lead throughout much of the second half.
In his first postseason game, Morris had 21 points, seven rebounds and four blocks. They also played Millsap as the five in the fourth while Dwight Howard (six points, seven rebounds) only logged 19 minutes. Wall created all sorts of separation, made it look like he was going to take a midrange jumper and then lobbed a pass right to Gortat for an easy two points.
Twice when Wall stepped to the free-throw line, fans serenaded him with chants of "M-V-P".
In regards to becoming an MVP, Wall responded with, "I won't be finishing first".
"When we first got him I was excited". However, Atlanta won four in a row with a starting lineup that included Tim Hardaway Jr. and Prince before resting several regulars in the regular-season finale after locking up the fifth seed. Millsap channeled Rasheed Wallace - "It was just two guys playing hard, man, it was two guys playing hard" - but Morris didn't shy away from initiating the chirping.
Johnson was hobbled by cramps serving at the end of the third set, but - coaxing a backhand return error from Bellucci on a serve he barely hit - was able to get off the court and receive a brisk right-thigh massage from an ATP trainer.