The Washington Wizards went up 2-0 on the Atlanta Hawks after their 109-101 victory but there still is an important question to ask? Are the Wizards mature enough to put their foot on the Hawks’ neck? After all the strutting, chest bumping action, the series starts to get real in Game 3. It’s strange saying this considering how the season started.
They came out of the gate 2-8 and thoughts of the old Tony Kornheiser statement “9-20” was being bantered around. The instant evaluation, so common in the Social Media era, was unfair considering the Wizards had hired a new coach in Scott Brooks.
Brooks’ style is nothing like his predecessor, Randy Wittman. He has put in a system that has produced big seasons from John Wall and Bradley Beal. Their individual numbers were so good, everyone has forgotten the preseason talk of them not liking each other.
Wall had a career high in points per game, assists per game, and eFG% (Effective Field Goal Percentage). He’s learned how to run the offense which isn’t easy as it sounds. His decision making is better than ever. He knows when to go slow and when to speed up. More importantly, when it’s time to take the big shot, it comes in rhythm instead of a 1-4 set like it’s an AAU game. This is where Brooks coaching has been important and it shatters the notion that NBA coaches do nothing more than send out 5 guys to ball.
Like Wall, Beal has career highs in several categories: points per game, assists per game, eFG%, games played and rebounds. Beal played in career high 77 games this season. He’s always gotten open shots in transition but now he’s getting more open shots in their half court sets. This has been a direct benefit from Wall’s on court maturity.
Brooks has gotten more out of Otto Porter than any other coach. How much more? A host on Sirius NBA Radio said Porter is in line for a $120M dollar deal. Who thought that two seasons ago?
But now we are at a crossroads. Can the Wizards show enough maturity to go on the road and finish off Atlanta. A sweep would be nice but a split would do.
On paper, this should be a foregone conclusion. In their six meetings this season, Washington has won 5. Yet the Hawks have had their chances. In Game 1, they were doomed by a bad third quarter. In Game 2, the Hawks held Markieff Morris and Otto Porter to a combined 7 points and had them both in foul trouble. Yet they still found a way to lose. Beal torched them for 31 points with 16 of them coming in the 4th quarter. John Wall finished with 32 points and 9 assists but was a -2. You would think if there was ever a scenario where the Hawks could steal a win on the road it was Game 2 yet they couldn’t. Heck in the first two games of the series, Atlanta has gone to the free throw line 77 times. 77 TIMES!
Despite all of this, the Hawks are still yapping and once again, it’s Paul Milsap. After the Game 2 loss Milsap said “We’re going back to Atlanta. We feel like we’re still confident so to us, it’s 0-0”. What? When did Philips Arena turn into the 1980’s Boston Garden?
This is the time for the Wizards to take a maturity step. No need to dress in all black and call it a ‘funeral’ like they did against Boston. You’re more mature than that. If you’re the team you think you are, you go on the road and you take, at least, one game and then destroy them in Game 5 at home. That’s what mature teams do.
Marcus “Mook” Washington is the host of Making The Cut. Follow Mook on Twitter: @mtcwithmook and IG: MTCWithMook