If the Hawks loss to the Wizards in Game 1 was a "schedule loss" for Atlanta that they internally won, Tuesday night's loss for Washington occurred the minute John Wall was listed as inactive for the game due to swelling in his left hand. The Wizards could probably weather the loss of any other individual player and hope to be competitive, but missing their do-everything point guard is presents a problem that even #PlayoffWittman can't solve.
The Wizards stayed competitive in the first half, managing to make up for their otherwise stagnant half court offense by hitting 6-11 from deep. Defensively, they did a poor job of getting back on transition, allowing numerous easy buckets off of turnovers and defensive rebounds. Fortunately for Washington, Hawks sharpshooter Kyle Korver continued his uncharacteristic misfiring from behind the arc as the Hawks managed make just 3 three pointers in the first half. The Wizards good fortune continued through the third quarter, as the Wizards seemed to get the shooter's bounce time and time again, while the Hawks' shots consistently went in and out.
The Hawks proved too much in the fourth quarter. Every time the Wizards rallied, hitting an outside shot or getting a couple of stops, the Hawks would counter with a rally of their own. By the time Marcin Gortat fouled out with under 4 minutes left in final frame, the Wizards didn't have enough in the tank for one more run, falling 106-90.
Here's what we learned:
Ramon Sessions plays well, is not Wall
Ramon Sessions has done a fine job as Wall's backup since being traded to Washington in February, but there is a considerable gap between what the two point guards bring to the team. This was on display early, as Teague consistently pressed Sessions into giving up the ball early and forcing the Wizards to adjust to running their offense without a gamechanging point guard. Sessions tried to replicate Wall's midrange pullup game but without the accuracy. Where he did prove effective was attacking the basket and shooting from deep. Sessions kept the Wizards in the game early in the third quarter by hitting a pair of 3 pointers and attacking the basket on numerous occasions.
Sessions was a very effective scorer in tonight's game and was a big part of why the Wizards were so competitive. Not to re-litigate old battles, but it's hard to imagine Andre Miller giving them those kind of minutes and performance in a playoff game.
Nevertheless, Sessions lacks Wall's ability to manipulate defenses and get his teammates open looks. It is not without appreciation for his fine effort tonight that we still desperately hope John Wall is available on Saturday.
Nene's struggles continue
The Wizards started out slowly once again, hampered in part by the continued struggles of Nene. Whether it was getting stuffed by Al Horford at the rim or making an ill advised behind the back pass that was intercepted, Nene was at best invisible and at worst harmful to the Wizards offense when on the court. Lacking the length to get over Horford and the quickness to get past Millsap, this series just doesn't seem to be working out for Nene. The decline in his play through the season has continued through the playoffs, and it makes one wonder how much the Wizards can continue to afford slow starts with the Nene/Gortat starting frontcourt.
Game by game plus minus has its flaws, but Nene's team low -14 for the night seemed an accurate assessment on how he played this evening.
He has yet to score a field goal in this series.
Porter keeps thriving
Otto Porter has shown he can play really well as a complimentary player alongside Wizards stars like John Wall. Of course, nearly everyone plays well beside John Wall because John Wall is phenomenally good at basketball. Tonight Porter shined without the benefit of receiving good looks courtesy of John Wall.
Otto made himself useful in every aspect of the game, finding open teammates, disrupting on defense, grabbing rebounds and hitting open shots all over the court. He showed all the skills that the Wizards hoped they were getting when they used a lottery pick on him in 2013. For a player whose confidence has often been questioned, this playoff performance should be a springboard for a better, more assertive Otto going forward.
Back to Washington
The good news? The Wizards didn't revert to their late season form without their superstar. They fought and made the Hawks sweat until late in the fourth quarter. While moral victories may not mean much in the playoffs, what does matter at this point is that the Wizards still have home court advantage in this series going back to Washington, where they should have their franchise player back on the floor.