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My Top 5 DC Sports Revenge Games/Moments
by
Jul 01, 2015 -- 3:14pm

This coming Redskins' season will mark the 25th anniversary of one of the worst losses in franchise history which was followed by the sweetest revenge win in team history. 

On November 12, 1990, the Eagles beat the Skins 28-14 on a Monday Night in Philly.  The Redskins had eight players carted off the field during the game including both of their available quarterbacks. 

Stan Humphries was knocked out of the game.  So was Jeff Rutledge.  Rookie kick returner Brian Mitchell finished up the game under center completing 3 of 6 for 40 yards. 

Late in the game, an Eagle player asked a few of the healthy Redskins, "do you guys need any more body bags?" 

From that moment on, the game has been referred to as the "Body Bag Game". 

Revenge came nearly two months later in the first round of the playoffs.  The Redskins beat the Eagles 20 to 6 to end Philly's season.  It’s my #1 all-time DC sports revenge game.

MY TOP 5 DC SPORTS REVENGE GAMES/MOMENTS

#1:  Body Bag Revenge. The Redskins didn't have Mark Rypien the night they carted one burgundy and gold body off after another but he was back for the playoff game.  The Eagles boasted how they broke the Skins two months earlier on a Monday night and vowed to do it again in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.  Buddy Ryan's team was confident having won 8 of its last 10 games including their final six at home by an average of 18.3 points per.  Ryan himself couldn't keep his mouth shut predicting that Earnest Byner would fumble three times during the game.  Joe Gibbs refused to respond publically but privately was using the Body Bag game and Ryan's big mouth as fuel. 

The Eagles were rolling and solid favorites to advance.  The biggest play of the game came in the 2nd quarter with the Skins leading 7-6 and driving deep in Philly territory.  Byner caught a pass in the flat and fumbled as he hit the ground.  Ben Smith picked up the ball and returned it 94 yards for an apparent touchdown.  Replay saved the Skins.  Byner's knee had hit the ground before he lost the ball and the Skins kept possession and built a 10-6 halftime lead.  They dominated from there on with Gibbs and Richie Petitbon totally outwitting Ryan and his staff.  Randall Cunningham got sacked 5 times awhile Rypien didn't get sacked once.  Rypien threw two touchdowns including the game-clincher to Gary Clark. 

Gibbs implored his team late in the game to say nothing and act as if it was totally expected.  Afterwards however, Gibbs couldn’t help but acknowledge the sweetness of the win saying, "when you get your clock cleaned like that, all we had to do was show the film, probably the biggest motivating factor is to whip somebody really good, and they’ll remember it.”  Buddy Ryan was fired three days after the loss.

#2:  From Gone in 60 Seconds to See Ya Later Shane Battier.  Marylandand Duke played four epic games during the 2001 season with the last coming in the Final 4.  But it was the first two during the regular season that will never be forgotten.  In the first matchup at Cole Field House, Maryland blew a 10-point lead in the final minute and lost the game 98-96.  It was a shocking loss that very easily could've derailed their season.  A month later however, the Terps got revengein Duke's home finale.  Juan Dixon was unstoppable on offense (28 pts) and relentless on defense (5 steals) as the Terps spoiled Senior Night for Shane Battier, 91-80.  No team beat Duke at Cameron Indoor more than Maryland did in the 2000's and each one felt great but none more than this one.

#3:  “No Danny No”. Most would probably have the Redskins 1983 NFC Championship win over the Cowboys ahead of this game….not me.  Heading into the next to last week of the 1983 season, the 12-2 Redskins and the 12-2 Cowboys were the two best teams in football.  Dallas had won the season-opener 31-30 in stunning comeback fashion at RFK Stadium.  The Skins led by 20 at halftime but were outscored 28-7 in the 2nd half.  The rematch on December 11, 1983 was the most hyped game of the year.  It would settle the NFC East and with it would come home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.  The Redskins came off their flight in Dallas wearing military fatigues purchased at a D.C. surplus store ready for a war.  Joe Gibbs didn’t like the bravado but told them they better back it up.  They did.  They led start to finish in a 31-10 blowout at Texas Stadium.  Dallas came unglued in the 2nd half.  Cowboys coach Tom Landry yelled “no, Danny, no” before a 4th and short audible by his quarterback Danny White failed.  Two frustrated Dallas defensive backs tried to break up an end-zone touchdown celebration by the “Fun Bunch” and Tony Dorsett got flagged for throwing a ball at the head of Darryl Grant. 

#4:  Leonard-Duran 2.  Five months after Robert Duran roughed up Sugar Ray Leonard in Montreal, Leonard got revenge in the famous "No Mas" fight at the Superdome in New Orleans.

#5:  Sonny’s Revenge.  Sonny Jurgenson was unable to play in Super Bowl 7 when the Dolphins beat the Redskins 14 to 7.  His revenge came in October of ’74 in a regular season matchup against 2-time defending Super Bowl champ Miami at RFK Stadium.  Sonny threw for 303 yards and two 4th quarter touchdowns including a 6-yarder to FB Larry Smith with 16 seconds left to beat Miami 20 to 17.

Here are a few more that could've easily made my top 5.

Redskins 31, Cowboys 17 in NFC Championship game.  The Skins only loss in the '82 regular season came at home to Dallas 24 to 10....they got revenge in the title game.

Redskins Playoff Win in Soldier Field.  The Bears beat the Skins in the '84 playoffs at RFK and then stomped on the Skins 45-10 during the '85 regular season.  They got revenge on January 3, 1987 by beating the Bears in the playoffs 27-13.

The Sweater Game.  #2 St. John's beat #1 Georgetown 66-65 in their first regular season matchup of 1985 at the Cap Center.  In the rematch at Madison Square Garden, St. John's coach Lou Carnesecca came out wearing his lucky sweater. As the crowd rose to see Carnesecca meet John Thompson right before the tip, the Georgetown coach opened his coat to show a replica of the same sweater.  The crowd roared with laughter.  Afterwards, Thompson said, "with all the talk about the sweater, I thought I'd better get one, too, if the sweater can carry us to victory, I wanted one." The Hoyas won the game 85-69 and went on to beat the Redmen in both the Big East Championship game and in the Final 4.



5 Draft Names For The Wizards
by Kevin Sheehan
Jun 25, 2015 -- 7:52am
ESPN 980

While the Wizards likely wait until 2016 to make the big move, tonight's draft provides a chance to improve now. 

The Wizards have made the conference semifinals two years in a row and will be a threat to go further next year simply because John Wall and Bradley Beal will be entering the beginning of their prime.  Their health and improvement is more important and impactful than almost anything else the Wizards can do between now and next year's playoffs.  

The Wizards have needs but Otto Porter's role and impact next year is much more encouraging now after his recent breakout playoff performance.  Pierce's return is in question but his leadership and clutch playoff act would be nice to have back.

Nene appeared to be on his last legs but to be fair, Toronto and Atlanta were bad playoff matchups for him.  If the Wizards had played Chicago and Cleveland, his postseason may have been different.  The Wizards may look to move him but his contract will make it difficult.

Regardless of whether the Wizards have joined the "going small" movement or not, they could use a power forward and another shooter or two.  They could also use more backcourt depth.  Ramon Sessions played well and is under contract for 2015-16 but the draft will likely offer up backup point guard chances for the Wizards at their 19th and 49th spots.

There are a few guys that I would love Ernie Grunfeld to consider if they're available at 19.  Keep in mind, Ernie loves to make deals but we'll assume that he stays at 19 and makes a pick.  That pick will be a boom or bust type of player.  That's typical of almost any NBA first-rounder but may be more pronounced in the middle part of this draft. 

Below is a list of five guys that could be there at 19 that I hope Ernie considers.  I've discounted the possibility that guys like Trey Lyles, Sam Dekker, and Frank Kaminsky will be there.  If any of them dropped to the Wizards spot, Ernie should consider all 3 seriously. 

Here are the 5 guys who more likely will be there at 19 and would really help the Wizards.

Montrezl Harrell/Lousiville/6-7, 250, PF:  Harrell isn't the obvious stretch 4 many would like but I love everything else about him.  He's an explosive athlete with a huge wing-span.  That length made him difficult to deal with near the rim on both ends of the floor.  The thing I love the most about Harrell though is his motor.  He's relentless, tenacious, and physical.  He also really understands the game.  His basketball IQ is solid.  The only reason Harrell isn't projected to be a top 10 pick is he lacks range on his jump shot (although his stroke is a good one and I think eventually he'll be able to shoot the 3 more consistently) and GMs may think he's undersized to play the 4.  He was a poor free throw shooter but made some big ones in clutch situations.  I'd want him on my team.

Bobby Portis/Arkansas/6-11, 250, PF:  Portis' game has some similarities to Andray Blatche's game but Portis is smarter and has better shooting ability.  But the physical comparison is close.  They have the same body and move in the same way.  Portis has long-arms and can score in multiple ways but like Blatche, sometimes settles too much for jump shots.  Portis has a solid post game and may be a better 3-point shooter than people think even though he didn't take a ton of them in college.  Like Harrell, the best part of Portis is he's high-motor and he's got good basketball IQ.  He's not a major contributor right away but when he matures, he's got a chance to be a legit NBA contributor if not starter.

R.J. Hunter/Georgia State/6-6, 185, SG:  R.J. Hunter's shot that upset Baylor and knocked his coach/father off his seat in the early part of the NCAA Tournament made him a March Madness star but NBA GMs had him as a first-round pick long before that day.  Hunter has a great shooting stroke which is why GMs should ignore his sub-par 3-point shooting percentage (30.5%) last year at Georgia State.  Hunter was the object of every opponent last year in the Sun Belt and as the only legit scorer on his team, he had to be a high-volume shooter.  I would ignore the percentage and focus in on the stroke.  He squares up and gets it out quickly and purely.  He's got unlimited range and because of his unusual length for his size, can shoot it over anyone.  He's more than a shooter.  He can create and score in a variety of ways.  He's got no conscience as a shooter/scorer but not at the expense of good decision making. He's a coach's son.  He really understands the game.  He'll be a very good pick/roll and pick/pop player in the NBA.  He'll be a lethal catch and shoot guy.  On the right team, he could average 16+ as a rookie and 20+ down the road. 

Tyus Jones/Duke/6-2, 180, PG.  I really like Tyus Jones.  I hate the comparisons to Tyler Ennis/Syracuse who came out after his freshman year and ended up in the D-league for most of the year.  As Coach Joe would say, Jones is super smart and naturally makes everyone he's playing with better.  He's also way underrated as an athlete.  He's obviously not Westbrook or Wall but his first-step is lightning quick.  He's a great ball-handler and very clever with the ball.  He's also fearless.  He'll use his clever scoring ability against bigger guys at the rim and he wants the ball in his hands with the game on the line.  He can run an offense as a pure point guard but he can also score with the shot clock winding down.  He would really benefit by going to a good team that needs 12-18 really good minutes a night from a back-up point guard.

Delon Wright/Utah/6-6, 180, PG.  This guy can really do a lot of things on a basketball court.  He's got great size for a point guard and he uses it. He can really defend and rebound for the position.  He anticipates so well on the defensive end which results in lots of steals or forced turnovers.  Offensively, he's a great passer and can score in multiple ways.  I saw games where he used his size and length to finish at the rim on one possession and then saw him post-up a smaller defender on the next.  His shooting could use some improvement but the stroke isn't bad.  He's a tough, hard-nosed competitor and a multiple category stat-stuffer.

The guy that I think Ernie and the Wizards will seriously consider if he's there is Kevon Looney/UCLA.  I wouldn't love that pick.  Looney is the "monster upside" guy but has more bust potential than most guys in the middle part of this draft.   He's 6-9, 220, and really talented.  He's super long with hard to miss arm length/wing span.  He's a beast around the rim with that length on both ends but he can also shoot it from long-range.  For GMs who love to envision future stars through young and raw, he's just 19 years old.  However, when you watch Looney play, there's a sloppiness to his game.  He's not the smoothest or the smartest.  Even though he didn't commit a ton of turnovers, he always seems on the brink.  Additionally, there has been critical talk about things like work ethic.  If Ernie picks him, it's simply because he's smitten with his physical talent.



When Competitive Fairness Didn't Matter to the NFL
by Kevin Sheehan
May 24, 2015 -- 2:27pm
ESPN 980

There was a time when the NFL didn't care much about competitive advantages.  Shortly after the merger in 1970, the NFL was the Wild West.  Stick-em on fingers, hard objects wrapped in tape on hands, tarps lifted from fields days in advance, heat into visiting locker rooms, and wind through stadium tunnel doors before field goal attempts.  Pretty much anything went and the NFL itself was the biggest offender thanks to a ridiculously crazy NFL playoff system.

Prior to the 1975 season, NFL playoff home-field advantage was based on a year-to-year divisional rotating system.  Regular season performance meant nothing to postseason home field.  Most NFL fans know that the undefeated '72 Miami Dolphins played the AFC Championship game on the road in Pittsburgh against the 11-3 Steelers but that was just the most visible tip of the unfair NFL playoff iceberg. 

In that same '72 postseason, the 11-3 Redskins had the best record in the NFC and hosted the wildcard Cowboys in the championship game at RFK Stadium.  What most Redskin fans don't know is that the Skins would've played the NFC title game on the road in San Francisco against the 8-5-1 49ers if the Niners had won the previous week over Dallas.  It was the NFC West's turn to host the title game if they were in it but Dallas roared back from 15 points down in the 4th quarter to pull off the win and allow RFK to host the NFC Championship game.

In 1970, the 10-4 Cowboys hosted the wildcard Lions in the first round when based on record (and a rule prohibiting division teams from facing each other until the championship game), they should've been on the road against 12-2 Minnesota while the 49ers hosted the Lions.  The Cowboys played in Super Bowl V three weeks later.

1971 was messed up.  The two best teams in the NFC faced each other in the first round while the same happened in the AFC.  11-3 Dallas opened up at 11-3 Minnesota while the 9-5 49ers hosted the wildcard Redskins at Candlestick.  The Redskins should've played their first franchise playoff game since 1945 in Minnesota based on a fair seeding system but instead lost at San Francisco 24-20. 

In the AFC, the two best records faced off in a Christmas Day multi-overtime epic.  However, KC and Miami should’ve hosted games that first weekend against Baltimore and Cleveland respectively.

The Redskins had the best record in the NFC in 1972.  They faced Green Bay in their first-ever playoff game at RFK Stadium.  They dominated the Packers 16-3 to advance to the title game the following week.  With a seeding system in place, the Skins would've faced San Francisco in the first round while Dallas would've traveled to Lambeau for an Ice Bowl rematch 5 years after the first one. 

The AFC title game featured 14-0 Miami AT Pittsburgh in '72.  Can you imagine the outcry if the 2007 16-0 Patriots had played the AFC Championship game on the road?

In '73, the L.A. Rams went 12-2 and played a first-round game on the road against 10-4 Dallas.  The Cowboys won that game and then incredibly got to host 12-2 Minnesota in the NFC Title game a week later.  They lost that one. 

The AFC was really screwed up in '73.  Miami had the best record (12-2) but had to host division-winner Cincinnati instead of wildcard Pittsburgh while Oakland got the Steelers at home when they should've been on the road at Cincinnati.

1974 was the last year of the alternating home sites.  Minnesota beat the Rams in Minneapolis 14-10 in the NFC Championship game to advance to Super Bowl IX.  That game should've been played in Los Angeles.  Both teams went 10-4 in the regular season and the Rams beat the Vikes 20-17 which with a tiebreaking seeding system would've put the title game in L.A. 

The AFC was twisted around in '74.  The first-round had Miami at Oakland in the classic "Sea of Hands Catch" game when the Dolphins should've been hosting Pittsburgh in the first round.  Instead, the Steelers got a break and played a home game against Buffalo and won that game on their way to an AFC Title appearance in Oakland.  The Steelers won that game and went on to win their first Super Bowl.  A seeding system would've forced them to win two road games instead of one.

It was a different time for sure but it's still amazing to think that a league as intent now on competitive fairness played it so unfairly back then.  Super Bowl matchups are etched in the minds of fans but how the teams got there is hazy.  Baltimore's Jim O'Brien kicked a 32-yd field goal to beat Dallas in Super Bowl V.  Dallas had an unfair road to that game.  Perhaps Minnesota if given the fair opponent at the proper time could've been a better foe for the Colts.

Imagine if the '71 epic Chiefs-Dolphins Christmas Day game had been played a week later as it should have.  Instead of an unusually balmy 60-degree day at Arrowhead, the warm-weather Dolphins would've played a week later on a sub-freezing day.  Perhaps Super Bowl VI would've featured the Chiefs against the Cowboys.

History tells us that Super Bowl IX featured Pittsburgh beating Minnesota 16-6 for the Steelers first of what would be many World Championships.  But the Steelers got a huge break when they got to host a first-round game against Buffalo instead of playing a road game in Miami.  The Vikings should've played the NFC Championship game on the road in Los Angeles but held on in a close 14-10 win at home instead.  Competitive fairness would've likely given us a far different Super Bowl IX.  Rams vs Dolphins would've given Miami a chance at a 3-peat.  Rams vs Raiders was a possibility too.

The league worries now about tenths of PSI pound differential and scant percentage points on PAT probability.  It's so meaningless compared to what they allowed to happen in the early 1970's.



Worst Wizards' Game of Playoffs Ends Season
by Kevin Sheehan
May 16, 2015 -- 12:13am

ESPN 980

The Wizards picked a bad time to play their worst game of this postseason.  The season is over after losing 94-91 in Game 6.

1.  Worst effort of the playoffs.  The Wizards laid an egg for the first time in the playoffs.  After 9 superior efforts, they came out flat and played tired tonight, especially in the first half.  Gortat was sick and they missed him tonight.  He's a big part of Wall's game offensively and that wasn't available tonight. 

2.  1st-half struggles.  The Wizards scored just 39 first half points on 35% shooting from the floor and generated just 3 first-half fast-break points.  Amazingly they were able to snag 13 first-half offensive rebounds (thanks mostly to Otto Porter) but couldn't convert on 2nd and 3rd chances.  The Hawks had 12 offensive rebounds.  Luckily, Atlanta was a little off themselves in the first-half or they would've had a double-digit lead at the break.

3.  Defensive problems most of the night.  The Hawks were a tough cover tonight.  Teague & Schroder abused the Wizards all night long creating for themselves and others.  They combined for 29 points and 11 assists....it seemed like it was more than that.  Millsap and Horford were near impossible for Nene, Gortat, Seraphin, Gooden, and/or Pierce to check and Carroll was a tough guard regardless of who was matched up against him.  People can complain all they want about Wittman, Nene, Gortat, etc....there weren't many options tonight.  If your perimeter people can't keep the ball in front of them, it's going to be a long night, especially when you've gone small for big portions of the game and don't have much rim protection.  Atlanta's ball movement once they broke the defense down on the perimeter was excellent.

4.  Hawks' 6-0 run end of first-half hurt.  Despite their worst half of the playoffs, the Wizards were still tied up at 39-39 with a minute left in the first half.  The Hawks however went on a 6-zip run that gave them a ton of momentum going into halftime.  It carried over into the 3rd quarter where they built a 15-point lead.

5.  Wall and Beal carried the Wizards offensively.  Wall and Beal combined for 49 points but got little help from anyone else.  Seraphin contributed a career playoff high of 13 off the bench but was the only other player on the team that scored in double figures.  Pierce went 1 for 7 for 4 points and looked tired on both ends.  Nene struggled again and gave them nothing on offense.  Gortat was sick and Porter didn't give them much scoring-wise even though he was super-active as a rebounder on both ends. 

6.  After finally taking the lead...disaster.  Give the Wizards credit; they didn't quit down 15 midway through the 3rd quarter.  They hung around within 7-10 pts for a long stretch between midway through the 3rd quarter and midway through the 4th.  Their big run started with just over 5 minutes left in the game when they went on a 9-zip run to take an 88-87 lead.  The Verizon Center was going nuts but that would be the end of the fun.  Disastrous offense followed.  They had three possessions with a 1-point lead and they couldn't extend it.  Nene missed two free throws after grabbing an offensive rebound off a Porter short miss.  Then a shot clock violation because Wall waited too long to make a move with the ball.  Then Pierce missed a 3-pointer.  They would miss one more free throw (Wall) and 3 more point-blank layups the rest of the way.  When all was said and done, the Wizards scored just 3 points over the final 3:49.

7.  Pierce shot too late.  A tough way for a season to end but the would-be 3-pointer came 1/10th of a second too late.  Still, what thrills he provided over the last 3 weeks.

8.  What's next?  I think that if Wall didn't break his hand and miss three games in this series, the Wizards would've won in 5.  They swept a series for the first time in franchise history and they played very well in 9 of their 10 playoff games.  They need to get more athletic in the front court and could use a more effective back-up for Wall.  Sessions did a nice job and is under contract but they need a bit more on both ends off the bench.  Nene's best days are obviously in the rear view even though he's under contract next year.  Pierce should come back and hopefully Porter's emergence in the playoffs results in a 2015-16 breakout season.  Wall and Beal are two legit stars and they'll continue to get better.  It would help if they could make it through a season & postseason healthy.  It'll be interesting to see what they do with Seraphin.  They've always liked him and he proved during the regular season and tonight in the playoffs that he can help as an 18+ minute bench player at the very least.  Without any major changes, they'll win 45-50 next year and be a threat to win at least one series if not 2. 



Wall Back & Good But Wizards Lose
by Kevin Sheehan
May 13, 2015 -- 11:59pm
ESPN 980

The Wizards got John Wall back but lost an ugly heartbreaker 82-81.

1.  Ugly offensive game.  Both teams were sloppy combining for 44 turnovers.   The defense was good but the offense was careless.

2.  Wizards' turnovers.  The Wizards had 19 of the game's 44 combined turnovers.  Too many of them were unforced and not enough of them came because they were being overly aggressive pushing pace.  They had 9 in the 3rd quarter after they had built an early 10-point lead in the quarter. 

3.  Hawks blocked 13 shots.  That combined with 19 turnovers meant the Wizards had 32 possessions that didn't include a shot that made it to the rim.

4.  Wall's return was much more good than bad.  For starters, Wizards fans should never forget what he did tonight.  The man played with a broken wrist/hand.  He was an inspiration and he played well.  Yes he had 6 turnovers but his presence in the lineup was felt right from the start.  For starters, the Wizards were much better defensively than they were in Game 4.  He had 4 steals and 2 incredible blocked shots but the key to the teams' defensive performance was Wall's ability to make things harder for Teague and Schroder.  He didn't look that compromised because of the wrist/hand.  He made several open-court plays in the first quarter that made it clear he was back, ready, and healthy enough to have an impact which he did.

5.  Officiating.  I thought this was a poorly officiated game....both ways.  Wall should've been called for a foul on a pump-fake 3-point attempt by Teague in the first half.  Beal traveled twice and wasn't called for it.  Beal got called for a charge on a clear no-call with the Wizards up 7 in the 3rd qtr.  Pierce got fouled by Korver on the steal that led to Carroll bucket that gave Atlanta an 80-78 lead.  That missed call cost the Wizards a chance to hold for the final shot of regulation in a tied game.

6.  Wizards didn't stay aggressive.  They opened the 4th quarter with an 11-1 run to take a 9-point lead with six minutes left.  They got too comfortable, became too slow, and had some bad offensive possessions.  Atlanta put Carroll on Wall and that seemed to hurt the Wizards' offensive sets.  It's why staying up-tempo even after made shots is so important for the Wizards.  Facing a set defense tonight especially when Carroll moved to Wall created problems for Washington.  After building that 9-point lead, they became stagnant, became easier to guard and Atlanta got the stops and then buried two huge threes as a part of an 8-0 run and the game was up for grabs again.

7.  Defense on Korver.  The combo of Beal primarily but also Porter on Korver has essentially shut him down.  He had the huge long-range 3 in the 4th quarter but it was his only made shot of the night.  He now has just 15 points in his last 3 games on 5-14 from the floor.  He's getting very few open looks.

8.  Pierce go-ahead 3-pointer.  The Pierce 3-pointer that gave the Wizards the lead was perfectly called and executed.  It was a very good pass from Beal and a nice screen by Gortat.  It would've been a helluva game-winner. 

9.  Horford game-winner.  Blame it on Nene if you want but Pierce helped on the Schroder drive against Wall and Nene rotated to box out Millsap.  That left the opening for Horford who made a great play.  The reason Nene came back in for Gortat is that Nene was a better defender than Gortat tonight against the pick & roll in particular.  Wittman wanted to stay small to guard the pick & roll guessing that the Hawks would go pick & roll but Schroder attacked the rim off the inbounds pass.  It's a tough call.  If you put Gortat and Nene in the game to reduce the chance of an offensive rebound, you probably ensure that Horford or Millsap are going to get an open shot.  Anybody that 2nd guesses can do it but Wittman was faced with more than one obvious answer.



Hawks Even Things Up
by Kevin Sheehan
May 11, 2015 -- 11:38pm
ESPN 980

The Wizards couldn't overcome the loss of John Wall tonight.  Atlanta played its best game of the series in a 106-101 win.  A few takeaways.

1.  Atlanta's offensive execution was excellent.  The Hawks got what they wanted offensively all-night long.  Whether it was hammering the Wizards with dribble-penetration by Teague and Schroder or either guy playing very effective pick-roll/pick-pop offense with Millsap and Horford, they got where and what they wanted.  Their court-spacing was the best it’s been in this series which made it harder to help on Teague/Schroder dribble-penetration.  The Hawks had 30 assists on 41 made shots.  That's great offense by any standard.

2.  Wall missed most on defense.  The Hawks found something that worked late in Game 3 that they went to the well on tonight.  Without Wall, there is nobody on the roster that can stay in front of Teague and/or Schroder.  Sessions, Bynum...didn't matter who it was; it was too easy for Atlanta's point guards to drive the ball into the paint and either score or create an easy opportunity for teammates.  They played together a bunch tonight and combined for 40 points and 16 assists.  That made it really hard for the Wizards to match-up.

3.  Beal was really good.  He went for 34 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds, 3 steals, and a key block that gave them a chance to tie the game late.  He was their best defensive player most of the night too.  He had the late block of a Schroder shot down 104-101 but also had a steal down 89-84 that the Wizards couldn't convert on the other end.  He'll need two more games like this one with more help if the Wizards are going to move on without Wall.

4.  Porter/Gortat struggled.  This was the worst night of the playoffs for both Otto Porter and Marcin Gortat.  Beal got a ton of help from Pierce and a little more from Nene but the Wizards needed more production from Porter and Pierce and just didn't get it.  They combined for 7 points on 2-11from the floor.  Gortat never seemed in rhythm.  Most of his misses were good shot attempts for him but he was just off.  Porter just didn't see the floor well tonight.  He had an opportunity in the 4th quarter to kick a pass to a wide-open Beal standing behind him but instead missed a contested shot.  And then down 95-88, he rebounded a miss and immediately threw it away to Teague.

5.  Wittman's out-of-bounds plays/scores at the end.  The Wizards ran three perfect plays after timeouts on their final three possessions of the game.  Down 104-97 following a timeout, Wittman dialed up a play that got Beal open off a screen for a quick layup.  Next possession down 104-99, they ran perfect play for Pierce off a screen then a pass to Nene for a quick dunk.  Then down 104-101, they got Paul Pierce open for a 3-point look to tie the game on a great play with multiple screens and misdirection freeing Pierce for a wide-open look.  Wittman has been very good in these situations all postseason long.

6.  Pierce's open 3 to tie.  Off a bone-crunching and barely legal screen by Nene on Carroll, Pierce got a wide-open 3 to tie the game and missed.  Carroll fell onto Pierce's feet which was definitely a distraction to Pierce but probably not a foul.

7.  Korver traveled.  Up 3 with 3.8 left, Korver slipped/stumbled/traveled after catching the inbounds pass.  It should've been Wizards' ball with 2.8 left with a chance to get off another game-tying 3-point attempt.

8.  Bynum will get more minutes in Game 5.  Will Bynum is a liability on defense but his ability to score means he’ll get more than 14 minutes in Game 5 assuming Wall can’t go again.  He was 5-7 from the floor for 10 points.  He was credited with 4 turnovers but 2 of them should have been assists instead including what should’ve been a catch/layup for Porter to cut the lead to 89-86.



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