After a superb fourth quarter in Wednesday’s Game 2 win — — the Washington Wizards fly to Atlanta with a comfortable two-game cushion in this NBA first-round playoff series. The Hawks will have home-court advantage and a strong sense of desperation. The Wizards, meanwhile, simply can’t afford to take their feet off the gas. Will Atlanta make this a series? Or will Washington take care of business and earn a commanding three-games-to-none lead? Andand let the kids play?
We’ve got everything you need to know ahead of Saturday’s Game 3. And check back often: This story will be updated frequently, including live highlights and analysis during the game.
Game 3: Washington Wizards (East’s No. 4 seed, 49-33) vs. Atlanta Hawks (East’s No. 5 seed, 43-39)
Date and time: Saturday, 5:30 p.m.
Channel: CSN, TNT
Location: Philips Arena, Atlanta
Game 1 result:
Game 2 result:
Regular season series: Wizards 3, Hawks 1
Game 4 at Atlanta: Monday, 8 p.m. (CSN, TNT)
Game 5 at Washington (if necessary): Wednesday, TBD (CSN)
Game 6 at Atlanta (if necessary): Friday, April 28, TBD (CSN)
Game 7 at Washington (if necessary): Sunday, April 30, TBD (TBD)
What you need to know
>> The story of Game 2 may well have been the referees. , with the Hawks shooting 38 free throws and Washington firing 33. The crowd provided its evaluation intermittently, chanting, “Refs, you suck!” throughout the night.
. Jennings’s number was called with just more than two minutes left in the third with Washington in dire straits, down four points and relying on a short rotation with four players — including its two starting forwards — in foul trouble. Jennings had played 15 minutes in Sunday’s Game 1 win at Verizon Center and come up with five assists, but no points and a -10 plus/minus rating. But three days later, just more than a minute into the fourth quarter, the backup point guard hit a step-back jumper to cut the Wizards’ deficit to two. Just more than a minute after that, he hit two consecutive jump shots, got a defensive stop, and dished to a cutting Jason Smith for the game-tying dunk. “Some nights, it might be your night,” he said. “But when your number’s called, just do what you have to do for the team.”
>> In good times and bad, the Wizards are an excitable bunch. When your best player is an ebullient point guard, when a moody center nicknamed the Polish Hammer mans the middle and when your power forward creates a “Death Row DC” alter ego, you’re not going to be a laid-back team. Raw emotion fuels and hinders the Wizards. During his first season in Washington, Coach , especially with John Wall, writes Jerry Brewer.
>> Once again, , torching the fourth quarter of Game 2 with a 6-of-9 shooting performance (16 points). Beal finished with 31 points (12 of 27 from the floor with four three-pointers), his second career 30-plus total in the playoffs. And he credited his superstar teammate. “It’s great,” Beal said, responding to John Wall’s show of support late in the game. “Especially John, more than anybody, he doesn’t care if I shoot the ball 100 times in a game or how many I make or miss.”
>> The key to the Wizards’ Game 2 win? , which was more difficult than you’d think. Finally, with the starting unit together through the final 4:35 of the fourth quarter, Washington turned a tie game into a 2-0 series lead. And just like in Game 1,.
>> The Wednesday for their second-ever triple play, the rare “D.C. sports trifecta.” But it didn’t come without some heart-stopping moments. “” wondered The Post’s Dan Steinberg.
>> John Wall was incredible in the third quarter of Game 1, but : The Wizards outscored the Hawks by 43.5 net points per 100 possessions in that frame with Wall scoring in transition, off the pick and roll and on drives to the basket. The guard’s effective field goal percentage (77.8 percent) was light-years ahead of his regular season performance (48.2 eFG percent).
>> A die-hard , who was going for a loose ball late in Game 1. His reaction? “I took most of the impact for him because we can’t afford to have him being hurt, especially with Atlanta being such a dirty team. … I saved our best player, and if that’s what it takes, thank God.”
>> Marcin Gortat was struggling badly but who once anchored a very good Wizards starting lineup. And all it took was for his backup to get hurt. Gortat’s mini resurgence — in Game 82 of the regular season, he made 8-of-9 shots for 16 points against Miami and he outplayed Dwight Howard in Game 1, scoring 14 points (7 of 11) with 10 rebounds and two blocks — comes as Ian Mahinmi recovers from a left calf strain.
>> The most interesting comments after Washington’s Game 1 win over Atlanta likely came via Hawks star Paul Millsap. “The difference in the game was we were playing basketball,” he said, “and they were playing MMA.” The Wizards have not attracted any sort of reputation as a brutish team this season, and , spiced with postseason intensity but nothing remarkable. Nonetheless, So there’s that.
>> Markieff Morris gave the Wizards their social media nickname, Death Row DC. It’s kind of an inside joke. It’s also kind of serious. “Death Row; that’s the type of team we are, that’s the type of team we want to be,” Bradley Beal said. Which is what, exactly? “A physical team that will kind of trash talk you a little bit, and that just don’t take no BS,” Beal said. “That’s pretty much it.” And
>> , writes Post columnist Jerry Brewer. It could shatter the false perception that he’s a player who is not quite elite. It could elevate Wall, 26, to a level of respect that he’ll boldly tell you is overdue.
>> How do the Wizards and Hawks match up? We break it down,
>> . “One thing I’ll say about this team, nobody threw coach under the bus,” John Wall said. “ … Then we started to have a stretch of a lot of home games when we started to win and win and win and finding a way to win a couple games on the road. I think that’s what built our confidence back and then we were like, ‘We’re a pretty damn good team.’ ” Here are
>> The Wizards’ last trip to the postseason ended in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. The team that jettisoned Washington? The Atlanta Hawks. . Part of that is the addition of Markieff Morris to keep up with four-time all-star Paul Millsap, who has given the Wizards plenty of trouble in the past. “We’ve been going at it all year,” Morris said about playing Millsap. “It’s a matchup I’m definitely looking forward to in the playoffs. We’re going to get it in, for sure. It’s going to be a good one.”
>> When the Wizards began the season by losing eight of their first 10 games, Ernie Grunfeld‘s 14-year tenure as the team’s general manger was quickly called into question. Washington is now 49-33 and has home-court advantage for the first round. The team’s success is in no small part due to Grunfeld, who has held an unshakable belief in the Wizards’ core of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr., as well as the organization’s long-held strategy, referred to simply as “The Plan.”
>> Scott Brooks calls D.C. a “magical” city. You’ll be forgiven for thinking . Maybe his first 10 months in this city could have gone better, but it’s hard to imagine how. He helped turn a .500 team with a downtrodden fan base into an Eastern Conference heavyweight, boasting the best record in the East since Dec. 1. He won Washington’s first division title in 38 years, clinched home-court advantage in the opening round for the first time in 38 years, and flirted with 50 wins for the first time in 38 years.
>> . But the Hawks pose a threat inside with the frontcourt combo of Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard, and if Atlanta should win, it will have more to do with how that pair dominates the paint than whether the Hawks stop the Wizards’ trio.
>> Post NBA reporter ahead of Saturday’s kickoff. He predicted the Wizards would win in five games but would need John Wall and Bradley Beal to again play like they have in past postseasons.
>> We’ve got good news and bad news: Washington is the 13th team, including the 1987-88 Bullets, to qualify for the playoffs after starting 2-8 or worse since the NBA playoffs expanded to 16 teams in 1983-84. Now for the bad news: Teams that turned their seasons around after 10 games . In fact, the 2003-04 Miami Heat is the only team among the previous 12 to reach the postseason after starting 2-8 or worse to win even one series.
>> You know who does fear the Wizards? The Cavaliers, . The TNT analyst and former star suggested Cleveland might actually prefer to finish second because it means it would avoid the mighty Washington Wizards until the Eastern Conference finals. No, really.
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