The Wizards glared. They talked trash. They flexed. They skipped. They pumped their arms. They high-fived fans. They popped jerseys.
This wasn’t MMA, double or otherwise. The refs wouldn’t let it be.
This was showmanship of professional wrestling – and a very real win.
Washington preened at every opportunity – not many between a seemingly unending cascade of foul calls – in a 109-101 Game 2 victory over the Hawks on Wednesday. John Wall (32 points and nine assists) matched a career playoff scoring high, set in Game 1, and unofficially led his team in swagger outbursts.
The Wizards capitalized on their first home-court advantage since 1979, winning twice in Washington before heading to Atlanta for Game 3 Saturday. Teams up 2-0 with two home wins in a best-of-seven series have won 94% of the time.
The Wizards and Hawks grinded through eight ties, 14 lead changes and 55 fouls – a foul every 52 seconds. For perspective, refs called a foul every 2:26 during the regular season.
Paul Millsap (27 points on 14-of-15 free-throw shooting) needed no adjusting to the style he sought and hunted fouls relentlessly. For a while, it seemed it’d work, with the Hawks turning a 10-point deficit into a seven-point lead in the third quarter.
But Brandon Jennings (10 points on 4-of-5 shooting with four rebounds and two assists in 17 minutes) got hot at the right time, and Bradley Beal (31 points) finally warmed up in the fourth quarter.
There will be moments Atlanta wishes it had back. Kent Bazemore committed a two costly turnovers when the Hawks tried to play just a couple minutes without a traditional point guard. Dwight Howard (six points, seven rebounds, three turnovers and four fouls) looked ineffective, and he played fewer than 20 minutes, none in the fourth quarter. Dennis Schroder (23 points) kept attacking the rim, faring better with Ersan Ilyasova and Mike Muscala spacing the floor. Will Atlanta deemphasize the paint-clogging Howard in Game 3?
And will the Hawks stop drawing so many fouls? After taking 39 free throws in Game 1 (to Washington’s 17), they attempted 38 (to Washington’s 33) in Game 2.
No team has taken so many free throws (77) in the first two games of a series and lost both since the 2008 Mavericks, who eventually lost to the New Orleans Hornets in five games in the first round.
If you don’t win like this, when will you?