*Sad Andray Blatche behind the back dribble*
My co-worker – a guy who’s on the periphery of understanding the NBA – asks me before every game of the Wizards vs. Hawks series, “So what’s your prediction for tonight?” It’s not an earnest question. I always respond with “I don’t make predictions”, but he lobs the question at me each time with the same Cheshire cat grin.
Yesterday, though, I admittedly told him I was doubtful. The Hawks shot extremely well in Game 4, and although Paul Pierce nearly forced overtime, Atlanta controlled most of the game. Now, Washington would be back on the road, nearly one step closer to a series elimination game.
“It’s gonna be tough,” I said to my co-worker. “I can see it going 7 games.”
Just when I was about to cloak myself in lowered expectations, low and behold, there was an announcement that John Wall would not only play, he’d start. With no minutes restrictions.
1. John Wall, the one-hand army.
When news broke that Wall was active and starting, the thought on everyone’s mind was how effective he’d be. How well would he be able to go left? Would he favor the injury? Would the Hawks try to run him into screens on his left? Will he even be able to shoot effectively?
Wall answered a couple of those questions here, getting into the lane for a nice floater over a tentative Hawks defense. With Wall back on the court, the Hawks had to respect the pick and roll with Gortat, leaving plenty of cushion for a shot.
2. Brad Beal going UP.
Brad Beal has been lauded throughout this series for his offensive performances. With Wall in and out, the Wizards have relied heavily on his scoring ability, as evidenced in Beal’s high minutes and usage totals.
What’s evident in this clip, however, is his overlooked athleticism and energy. Dennis Schroder, who was held to 6 points on 3-12 shooting, had his layup erased by a flying Beal. The team’s defense was defense in Game 5 was palpable.
3. Wall breaking Teague off
Something sorely missing from Washington’s offense over the past 2 games was the ability to get out on the break and finish. Ramon Sessions is a solid back-up to John Wall, but he doesn’t have the quickness and burst that Wall has.
In another illustration of the Hawks having to respect all aspects of Wall’s game.
4. Wall’s incredible no-look backwards pass.
How do you further demoralize a team who gave up a late first half run at home? You add to their deficit with a Harlem Globetrotters-like pass over their entire defense. When I play on my sons’ Little Tikes court, I fling passes like this. I may take out a lamp and glass of juice, but I try.
Wall did a lot of great things in Game 5, but this will undoubtedly go down as his signature play. He makes things look too easy sometimes.
5. The Truth got ’em again. For only a moment.
When you’re trailing with less than a minute left in a pivotal road playoff game, who do you turn to? The man you brought to your team for moments just like these.
Paul Pierce had a rough Game 5. Before this shot, he’d only hit on 2 of his 8 field goal attempts, and just seconds before, he’d turned the ball over trying to get past Kyle Korver in the lane. All looked lost for Paul until Beal found him camped in the corner for a three pointer over a hard-charging Paul Millsap.
The shot gave Washington the lead and would be the biggest (Wizards) shot of the game.