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Top Stories of the Week: Two games down, two to go for the Wizards in Round 1

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The Wizards have started the NBA Playoffs on the right note!

Atlanta Hawks v Washington Wizards - Game Two Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The NBA Playoffs have begun, and the Wizards are in the middle of their first round series against the Atlanta Hawks. Though many players — especially for Atlanta — have left since their last postseason series in 2015, the Wizards are looking for revenge when they lost the series, four games to two.

If you’ve missed out on what went down this past week, we got you covered. Let’s go through the Top Stories of the Week.

The Wizards lead, two games to zero over the Hawks

NBA: Playoffs-Atlanta Hawks at Washington Wizards Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Wizards have done something that many fans never seen in their lifetimes — securing homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

And to our delight, the Wizards came out with two straight wins. In Game 1 last Sunday, John Wall scored 32 points and dished 14 assists to lead Washington to a chippy 114-107 win. Markieff Morris also took his game to another level with 21 points and 4 blocks. That said, the bench didn’t play well — and the Wizards weren’t particularly pleased with a free throw discrepancy.

In Game 2 on Wednesday, Wall scored another 32 points, while Bradley Beal added 31 more to lead the Wizards to a 109-101 victory. The other piece of good news we saw was that Brandon Jennings finally had some shooting rhythm as he scored three straight basket in the fourth quarter to fuel a comeback win.

The series head to Atlanta later Saturday night for Game 3 at 5:30 p.m. ET when they will try to take a commanding 3-0 lead.

That said, this series has been very hard

NBA: Playoffs-Atlanta Hawks at Washington Wizards Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Wizards are 2-0, but it’s not like they’ve blown out the Hawks by 20 every game. In fact, they could have lost any of them. This series has been a hard fought series, to say the least.

One of the reasons, whether fair or not, is because the games have been closer due to the number of fouls the Wizards committed. They currently lead the NBA in postseason personal fouls per game with 27 and the Hawks aren’t far behind with 24. When there are more personal fouls, there will be more free throws. The Wizards have allowed the Hawks to attempt 77 free throws while they only have 50. It’s something Jake Whitacre noted when he mentioned that the Wizards have to bite their tongues, even if the calls aren’t going their way.

In short, the refs have blown their whistles quite a bit, so much to the point where the fans chanted “Refs You Suck” during Game 2:

Are the Wizards getting in quick foul trouble because they’re playing “MMA?”

NBA: Playoffs-Atlanta Hawks at Washington Wizards Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Okay, that’s what Paul Millsap said after Game 1, according to Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I’ll just give the money quote here but also context:

“The difference in the game was we were playing basketball and they were playing MMA,” Millsap said of the difference in the game. “They were physical. When the game is like that we have to match their physicality. But again, we’ve got to go get some moves and bring them back to the court.”

So, what Millsap said was that the Wizards played very physical. They did. But he also added that Atlanta had to match that. Of course, that didn’t go unnoticed by Markieff Morris, who said “I guess if that’s MMA, then what we do next might by double MMA,” according to Candace Buckner of The Washington Post.

When players make references to basketball as MMA, and when Morris implied that the Wizards may play DOUBLE MMA, that doesn’t go unnoticed. I’m not surprised that the referees called Game 2 very tightly.

That said, I think things should “even out” as this series continues, so long as there are no fights during games.

#DeathRowDC

Michael Lee of The Vertical detailed how Markieff Morris assigned nicknames to Wizards players and other members around the team to Death Row Records rappers who enjoyed their heyday in the early to mid 1990’s. John Wall was “Tupac Shakur” and Bradley Beal was “Dr. Dre.” I guess that makes “California Love” the new theme for the House of Guards?

More Wizards Playoff Links

Atlanta Hawks v Washington Wizards - Game Two Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

I have plenty of more links to share about this series, so let’s go through them here:

  • Alright, this isn’t about the playoffs, but it’s about pivotal moments that got the Wizards to where they are now. On December 5, 2016 the Wizards beat the Brooklyn Nets to finish a 1-2 road trip that included close losses to the Thunder and Spurs beforehand. As you may recall, the Wizards played poorly in the first half, but turned it around in the second to win, 118-113. At the time, we weren’t feeling good about that win, but the Wizards got much better after that. Candace Buckner of The Washington Post details how Scott Brooks helped get the team to fight instead of fold.
  • And in case you missed Ben Becker and Kevin Broom’s podcast earlier this week, here’s their take on Game 1 and much more.
  • Mike Sykes spoke with Brandon Jennings after Game 2 when he scored eight straight points, right when they needed him the most. Yes, we all knew he was known as a “shoot first” point guard back in his early years. But he has turned into a “pass first” point guard in D.C., AND he’s getting his scoring touch back as well. Wednesday’s game was definitely a great sign for him.
  • John Wall has beef with Dennis Schroder, which goes back to an Instagram photo in 2015. After a fast break dunk in Game 2, he gave his death stare. Dan Steinberg of The Washington Post has more. And Angry John Wall is scary:
  • A lot of people may not like the fact that the Wizards vs. Hawks playoff series has been hampered by fouls and more fouls. It made the series “unwatchable” to some. But Giri Nathan of Deadspin writes why this is in fact a very watchable series. Reason number one? John Wall! Whether it’s a crazy pass, an acrobatic shot, or a crossover, he makes the game fun to watch between those times when the refs exhale.
  • Adam McGinnis of Truth About It chronicles some more observations from Game 2 of the Wizards vs. Hawks series.
  • The starting centers of the playoff series are Marcin Gortat for the Wizards and Dwight Howard for the Hawks. Once upon a time, Gortat was Howard’s backup for the Magic — and for good reason. Howard was a perennial All-Star and an elite post defender. He’s still one hell of a player. That said, Gortat’s done an excellent job against Howard in this series. Ben Mehic of Wiz of Awes has more.
  • The Wizards’ stars and stripes jerseys are very popular. They’re also Washington’s home jerseys for this postseason. Unfortunately, they’re sold out. For good. That’s because the inventory ran out before the regular season AND the NBA is switching to Nike uniforms next year. Dan Steinberg of The Washington Post wrote about that and some other things the team’s doing to “compensate” for the lack of such jerseys.
  • Our own Kevin Parrish also writes for FanSided’s Sir Charles in Charge. Here’s his latest column on the Carmelo Anthony saga. I’m just happy that Wall isn’t in the rut that the Knicks are in right now.
  • And finally, FiveThirtyEight predicts that the Wizards are the Eastern Conference team that’s most likely going to win the NBA title. Hmmmm.....

These are just some of the many links about the Wizards and their run so far in the playoffs. They are far from the only ones of course. If you have another link you’d like to share, feel free to do so in the comments or as a FanPost.

See y’all later tonight for Game 3.