Author: Brett Pollakoff

Atlanta Hawks v Washington Wizards-Game Three

Paul Millsap crosses over Nene, drives baseline for tough and-1 reverse layup (VIDEO)

Leave a comment

Paul Millsap didn’t take his usual place as a member of the Hawks’ starting lineup in Game 3, unable to perform as expected due to dealing with flu-like symptoms.

Millsap was ineffective in 22 minutes off the bench, and despite a late run from Atlanta to force Paul Pierce to create some heroics at the buzzer, the reality is that the Wizards were in control from the jump, and held a large lead for most of the contest.

Millsap returned to form in Game 4, however, and not so coincidentally, so did the Hawks.

Announcement: Play one-day fantasy basketball tonight! Pro Basketball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $250,000 league for Tuesday’s NBA games. It’s just $5 to join and first place wins $15,000. Starts tonight at 7pm ET.  Enter now!

On this play, Millsap used a crossover dribble to get past Nene, then got to the other side of the rim for the acrobatic and-1 finish.

Millsap finished the first half with 15 points, six assists, three rebounds and two steals, and Atlanta scored 65 points and was up 10 at the intermission.

Paul Pierce misses game-tying three, Hawks hang on to even series with Wizards

Atlanta Hawks v Washington Wizards - Game Four

Lightning couldn’t strike twice.

Paul Pierce hit the game-winner at the buzzer to give the Wizards a Game 3 victory, and got a clean look at a three in Game 4 that would have tied things up with less than six seconds left.

But the shot rimmed off this time, and the Hawks held on for a 106-101 victory to even the best-of-seven series at two games apiece.

Pierce had hit his first five three-pointers of the night, so looking for him late, especially after his Game 3 heroics, was a logical choice. Nene set a rigid screen on DeMarre Carroll, who made it into the game this time, and Pierce was somehow left all alone with the ball in his hands. Carroll diving at his feet may have provided enough of a distraction, and the fact that Pierce couldn’t land cleanly with Carroll in his way was enough to look to the closest referee for a late foul call plea.

But it wasn’t to be. Pierce had a solid night regardless, and finished with 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting, to go along with five rebounds and three blocked shots.

The Hawks took control of this one from the opening tip, with an aggressive and attacking style of offensive basketball we’ve rarely seen from them in the postseason. Atlanta scored 16 of its first 19 points in the paint or right at the rim, thanks to dribble penetration from Jeff Teague and the signature ball movement we had come to expect from this Atlanta team over the first half of the regular season.

Paul Millsap didn’t start Game 3 due to flu-like symptoms, and was largely ineffective in 22 minutes off the bench. But he came to play in this one, and put together a dominating first half with 15 points and six assists, which helped get his team clicking on the way to scoring 65 points over the game’s first two periods.

Teague dueled with Bradley Beal for most of the second half, with the Hawks remaining in control after staving off a couple of Washington surges. Beal scored 19 of his 34 points over the game’s final two periods, while Teague scored 14 of his 26 in a little over 15 second-half minutes.

The final Wizards run began with 1:12 to play, as they were trailing by seven points. Two quick buckets out of excellent timeout plays drawn up by Randy Wittman — a driving layup by Beal, followed by a dunk from Nene — had the game back within a single possession. Dennis Schröder, who largely played well in finishing with 14 points and eight assists off the bench, took it upon himself to score on a drive, missed, got his own rebound, and then missed again.

That set up the potential for Pierce to rain down terror on the Hawks with his shooting once again. But lightning wasn’t ready to strike twice.

Hawks’ DeMarre Carroll (kind of) explains why he wasn’t on floor to defend Paul Pierce’s game-winner

Atlanta Hawks v Washington Wizards-Game Three

The Hawks had an unusual lineup on the floor to defend the Wizards on Game 3’s final possession, but at least part of that was a product of circumstances.

Atlanta’s reserves were the ones who put together a late 21-3 run to bring the Hawks back from the dead, and seldom-used Mike Muscala of all people was the one who hit the three-pointer to tie the game at 101 with 14 seconds left.

So, the lineup that was in place to defend what ended up being Paul Pierce’s game-winner consisted of Kyle Korver, Kent Bazemore, Shelvin Mack, Dennis Schröder and Muscala — a group which, as far as I can tell, had never logged even a single minute together before that fateful possession.

We saw what happened next — Pierce ended up being guarded by the much smaller Schröder for some reason, the help from Bazemore came late, and Pierce was able to elevate for his patented step-back jumper, which banked home just before time expired.

DeMarre Carroll has been the best player for the Hawks in these playoffs, and is one of the team’s better defenders. He should have been out there to lock up Pierce, and in fact, head coach Mike Budenholzer evidently wanted it that way. But somewhat oddly, Carroll seemed to bow out of accepting the assignment.

The Hawks were already dealing with a substandard version of Paul Millsap, who didn’t start because he was dealing with flu-like symptoms, and was largely ineffective in 22 minutes off the bench. If Carroll isn’t right physically as he seemed to indicate (although his answers to why he wasn’t on the floor were far from revealing), Atlanta could be eliminated sooner than anyone expected.