As the series shifted to the “Phone Booth,” Washington was able to split two games in nail biting fashion against the Atlanta Hawks. The Wizards settled for a 2-2 tie after losing a thriller, 106-101 on Monday night.
MyMindOnSports’ Troy Jefferson takes a look at some notable observations from the past two games.
1. If John Wall was playing this could’ve been a sweep
Plain and simple Atlanta hasn’t been the world-beaters they were made out to be after a 60 win regular season. Without its top player, Washington played Atlanta right down to the wire in the last two games. The Wizards flat out embarrassed the Hawks on Saturday before squandering a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter. Atlanta played its best game of the series yesterday and even then narrowly escaped. It’s also not far fetched to think John Wall would’ve had something to say about Jeff Teague’s 26 point/ 8 assist performance. Offensively, Wall has been missed as a floor general as Sessions/Bynum and Temple have combined for just 12 assists and 11 turnovers in the last two games. I hate to play the “what if” game but it looks pretty clear that a healthy Wall would’ve made this series a laugher and at the least Washington would be up 3-1 right now.
2. Bradley Beal is capable of being a SUPERstar
Beal put up 17 points on 6/15 shooting on Saturday and had eight assists, the 17 points was right around his career average of 15 points per game. We all knew Bradley Beal had a nice jumpshot but we didn’t know if he could be an alpha dog scorer or if his game one 28 point performance was just an aberration. Well his 34 point night on Tuesday shattered that notion. It’s a cliché phrase but Beal really did put the team on his back, adding six boards and seven assists to his impressive 34-point game. Oh yeah and I forgot, he held Kyle Korver to only four shot attempts… FOUR (he only made two)! What he was able to do in game four with only FOUR minutes of rest was nothing short of amazing.
3. Paul Pierce in spurts can still be the early 2000s Paul Pierce
By now I’m sure you’ve all seen “The Truth’s” big shot to win game 3. Pierce has been just what the Wizards needed. I loved Trevor Ariza just as much as the next fan but he isn’t making a contested shot at the elbow to give you a 2-1 series lead. Pierce may not be the player he once was (even though he never relied heavily on athleticism) he still in short bursts can be the old Paul Pierce. In the first quarter of game four, Pierce was able to sustain the offense with 3-3 shooting from beyond the arc. Pierce has really been an asset in bailing out stagnant possessions and keeping Washington out of those patented four-five minute long droughts that doomed them last season (Ex. Game Four of the Pacers series).
4. Nene still has plenty to offer
“Nene sucks, BENCH him”… Settle down. I’ve said it before, it’s not the best series matchup wise for Nene but he showed in Game 3 and Game 4 that he still can be a force. Nene came into Game 3 shooting zero percent… Lol, that wasn’t a typo, he was 0/9. The Big Brazilian heard the deserved criticism and responded with a 7/9 game from the field and a 6/8 game, posting seven boards and four assists in both games as well.
5. Will Bynum may be a better option at point guard
Randy Wittman has been searching for answers at the point guard position minus John Wall and maybe a 6’0” point guard, who was playing in China earlier in the winter can provide the answer. Will Bynum, a solid backup point guard on some bad Detroit Pistons teams, came in on Monday night and provided a spark. Bynum is a little more versatile offensively than “drive to the basket and flail my arms” Ramon Sessions and makes up defensively for his short stature with quick feet and energy. Bynum had 10 points on Monday in 14 minutes but the four turnovers were a problem. I’m not saying he’s going to outplay Jeff Teague but I’d at least give him more than 14 minutes on Wednesday and maybe even split the minutes between him and Sessions 50/50.