The Washington Wizards started their round series against the Atlanta Hawks on April 16. Game 1 and Game 2 take place in Washington D.C. In Game 1, the Wizards beat the Hawks 114-107 in a convincing manner. John Wall was the star of the game with an impressive stat line. He scored 32 points, 14 assists, and 4 rebounds. It was clear that he was the best player on the court. The Wizards excelled in all aspects of the game, especially defensively. Not to take anything away from their offense because it was great, but it was expected that their offense would be great.
The Hawks are a team that slows the game down and the strongest aspect of their style of play is their defense. The Wizards were able to play great defense and still play well offensively. The last few weeks of the season Washington was not playing well defensively, but they were amazing on offense which led them to win games. It was clear that they needed to improve their defense during the playoffs. They demonstrated in the first game of the playoffs that they can improve their team defense. It is also a challenge because of Ian Mahinmi, one of their best defensive players is currently out with a calf injury.
Mahinmi is the backup center but he logs a lot of minutes and is the team’s best rim protector. In his absence, Gortat and the rest of the team had to step up. Gortat and Morris really stepped up in this first game of the playoffs. Gortat scored 14 points, had 10 rebounds and two blocks. Gortat frustrated and took Dwight Howard out of the game, while Morris excelled on both ends of the floor. Morris scored 21 points, had seven rebounds and had four blocks. Morris also had the hardest task defensively.
Morris had to guard Paul Millsap, Atlanta’s best player. Millsap scored 19 points, but he could not guard Morris and was very frustrated when Morris guarded him effectively and Millsap could only get two rebounds during the game and had plus/minus -19 which means that his team was outscored by 19 when he was on the floor. The Wizards were able to fill the defensive roles. Washington needs to continue this style of play in order to beat the Hawks in this playoff series. Mahinmi will soon return and they will need this type of play from both Morris and Mahinmi in order to help the defense. Kelly Oubre was also able to help from the bench with his defense and offense.
Oubre had two steals and 11 points in the game. His defense will also be important for the team. The Wizards need better play from their bench because they all had negative plus/minuses. They relied too much on the starting five and they will need more scoring from Bogdanovic and Oubre. Washington’s next game is on April 19 and the Wizards are hoping to leave DC with a 2-0 lead.
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