Post Up: More Wizardry

by May 04, 2015

 Wizards 104, Hawks 98 (Washington leads series, 1-0)

The Wizards are proving to be a lot tougher to beat than most people predicted.

Washington overcame a poor start, injuries to its backcourt and an off night from Nene to steal Game 1 of the conference semis against the Hawks. In doing so, the Wiz became the first team in League history to win four straight series openers on the road.

Atlanta was on fire early on. The Hawks shot 64 percent from the floor in the first quarter to open up a 37-26 lead. They made crisp passes, found the open man and played the style of basketball that earned them the top seed in the East. DeMarre Carroll dropped 21 points in the first half, and all signs pointed toward ATL protecting its home floor in Game 1.

The final 24 minutes were a completely different story. After scoring 37 points in the first quarter, the Hawks managed only 35 in the entire the second half. The Wizards were clearly the more energized team. John Wall (18 points, 13 assists, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks) sparked the initial comeback by sinking three jumpers within the first four minutes of the third quarter. Just as he did in the Wizards’ sweep of Toronto—and throughout the whole regular season, for that matter—Wall consistently drove the lane at blinding speed, drew the defense, and kicked to eager, open teammates at the 3-point line.

The NBA Playoff leader in assists sprained his wrist on a nasty spill late in the second quarter. But the Wiz’ All-Star point guard shook off the pain and got back to work. Similarly, Bradley Beal–who shot 9-22 for 28 points and pulled down 7 rebounds–suffered a severe ankle twist but refused to let the pain take him out of the game. Not only did Wall and Beal dominate the game, but they also showed toughness and resiliency—two characteristics you love to see out of a young backcourt.

Nene (0 points, 3 rebounds, 3 fouls) played sluggishly on both ends of the floor in his 17 minutes of action. Luckily for DC, Marcin Gortat (12 points, 12 rebounds) and Drew Gooden (12 points, 5 rebounds) were there to pick up the slack in the frontcourt. Otto Porter showed why he’s a legitimate force off the bench in round one, and he once again provided big minutes with 10 points and 11 rebounds in last night’s win. Plus, he’s a heck of a wing defender. Meanwhile, Paul Pierce (19 points, 7-15 shooting) picked up where he left off against the Raptors by knocking down important jumpers in a hostile arena.

Atlanta went ice cold after its scorching start. The Hawks shot 25 percent from the field in the second half and finished at 38 percent for the game. With a little more than two minutes left and the game still in reach, they missed six shots on a single possession. Carroll scored only 3 second-half points after dropping 21 in the first half. All five Hawks starters scored in double figures, but the bench production was non-existent. Did the quick turnaround time from the Brooklyn series hurt Atlanta? Are Al Horford and Paul Millsap more banged up than they’re letting on?

Game 2 will be played Tuesday night at 7 p.m. Eastern in Atlanta.

—Eli Schwadron

Warriors 101, Grizzlies 86 (Golden State leads series, 1-0)

First of all, congratulations Mr. Stephen Curry—welcome to the MVP club my man. Not that I’m a part of the club or anything, but glad to see you’re about to officially join the ranks. And as for your Western Conference Semifinals opening game yesterday afternoon, well, not too shabby at all. Sending multiple thumbs up emojis your way.

Steph led his Dubs to a win at the Oracle Arena against the Memphis Grizzlies yesterday in Game 1 of the second round of the 2015 NBA Playoffs with 22 points, 7 assists, and 4 steals. One of those assists was this elegant behind-the-back pass in the first quarter:

The Warriors shot lights-out Sunday afternoon—50.6 percent from the floor and 46.4 percent (13-28) from 3-point range. The Grizz shot 45.2 percent from the field, but only 25 percent (3-12) from beyond the arc.

After heading into the break with a 9-point lead, Golden State held the Mike Conley-less Grizzlies to only 14 points in the third quarter. That’s the same quarter in which Klay Thompson (18 points, 6 assists) and Curry had back-to-back 3-pointers to widen the gap to the largest of the game—a solid 20 points.

Memphis wasn’t able to get back after that. Marc Gasol led his squad on the road with 21 points and 9 rebounds, Zach Randolph added 20 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists, and Tony Allen finished with 15 points…and this Vine:

Game 2 is set for tomorrow night in Oakland, where the Grizz hope to bring their characteristic physicality to even the series. That’ll most likely prove to be a little difficult, with the near 20K fans in Warriors gold and blue filling the arena that witnessed a mere two losses the entire year.

—Habeeba Husain