The Wizards would probably be up 3-1, or perhaps have swept the top seeded Hawks out of the Eastern Conference semi-finals IF John Wall had not suffered a left wrist and hand fracture. However, the reality is Wall DID suffer that fracture, and has not played since his heroic performance in Game 1. But even so, the Wizards are still very much in the series, tied at 2.
The Wizards have not looked overmatched without Wall against a well-balanced Hawks team in the three games since he went down. That being said, the Wizards would rather have their franchise player on the court. He gets his teammates shots – and he can score. Plus he is the defensive catalyst and leader on the floor.
Wall did some dribbling on Tuesday and will be checked out again by doctor’s prior to Game 5 tonight in Atlanta.
“When they check him again,” Randy Wittman said after practice, “I’m sure they’re either going to say ‘No, we need more time’ or ‘It’s up to you’ from a pain standpoint.”
So as we get closer to the “will he or won’t he” stage of the series, let’s keep in mind the Wizards CAN do this, with or without their all-star guard. As Randy Wittman puts it, they’ll need to continue to play “on a string” defensively and share the ball like they do on offense: Give up a good shot for a better shot.
Ramon Sessions has done a solid job as the main point guard, pushing the tempo and finishing at the rim. He’s not a Wall-type of playmaker, but really — who is? However, Bradley Beal has stepped up his game. Beal has been the man on offense, scoring and assisting others. He has also pretty much erased Kyle Korver’s effectiveness in the series.
Then there is Paul Pierce, who has raised his game in this series as he did with Toronto. For those who didn’t know (YouTube him), this is why they brought him here. He’s got the ‘it factor.’ He’s a clutch player, even at the age of 37. His play at the stretch 4 has been huge in these playoffs.
This has not been an easy series for Nene, but he’s trending in the right direction. After going 0 for his first 11 in Games 1 & 2, he went 12 of 16 in Games 3 &4. Despite a rough go of it in Game 4, Marcin Gortat has been really good in the playoffs. However, with Wall out things are not coming as easy for him. The Hawks matchup is not easy on the two traditional post players. But that doesn’t mean they can’t have an impact offensively and on the boards. Plus, they’ll need to be rim protectors and clog the lanes.
Off the bench, Drew Gooden has not been scoring as much of late. But he’s the most reliable big off the bench because of his rebounding, defense, and ability to stretch the floor. Otto Porter has shown he’s no bust with his stat stuffing lines in these playoffs. Also, Will Bynum, who was playing in China just a few months ago, has done a nice job as the backup point guard.
There are also capable shooters sitting on the bench waiting for a chance to contribute, like Rasual Butler and Martell Webster. There are also big men that can score and rebound in Kevin Seraphin and Kris Humphries. There is a reason General Manager Ernie Grunfeld was confident this team could match up and compete and beat anyone in the Eastern Conference. This is a deep and a versatile team he has built.
If Wall is ready, that would be great as long as he doesn’t suffer a setback. However, the Wizards players are not talking like a team that needs to be rescued by Wall. “We won one game without John,” Beal said. “We can do it again.”
If they can do it without Wall again in Game 5 , it might buy him so more valuable healing time. There is no question they will need all good hands on deck if they can advance past the Hawks into the Eastern Conference finals.