The Washington Wizards’ first home playoff Game 1 in nearly 40 years Sunday resembled several subpar first-half performances from the regular season with defensive breakdowns, a plethora of missed shots and fouls.
And just like the Wizards have done numerous times this season, they came out the locker room after halftime with intensity.
The team trailed 48-45 at the half, but scored 38 points in the third quarter, including 15 from All-Star point guard John Wall, en route to a 114-107 victory over the Atlanta Hawks before a sold-out crowd at Verizon Center in northwest D.C.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is 7 p.m. Wednesday at Verizon Center.
“It makes it fun for us when we come out and our crowd is getting in to the game,” said Wall, who scored a playoff career-high 32 points along with 14 assists. “Let’s say we’re in a bad slump and a team gets a big run on us. Our crowd cheers us up and gets us back into the game. We feed off that energy a lot and today it was very big.”
Shooting guard Bradley Beal with 22 points and three steals and forward Markieff Morris scored 11 of his 21 points in the third quarter of his playoff debut.
Morris had two monster dunks, including an alley-oop from Wall that revved up the home crowd, which received white “Wizards DC Family” T-shirts.
Morris, whose twin brother and Detroit Pistons forward Marcus attended the game and wore his brother’s Wizards jersey, also pulled down seven rebounds.
“I jumped in headfirst,” Morris said. “I was tired, I know that much. The intensity was sky-high. I’m always a relaxed guy, so it’s just playing in the moment, staying in the moment and giving everything I’ve got until the clock hits zero.”
The Wizards got out to an 18-8 lead, but the Hawks went on a 21-7 run in the last 4:34 of the first quarter to take a four-point lead.
The Hawks led the entire second quarter, with both teams shooting just 33 percent from the floor at halftime.
The Wizards took the lead for good in the third quarter after forward Otto Porter Jr. hit a 3-pointer to put the team ahead 53-52.
The Wizards finished the game shooting 45 percent from the floor on 100 shot attempts, compared to Atlanta’s 78.
The Hawks outrebounded the Wizards, 48-42, led by center Dwight Howard’s 14.
Atlanta outscored the Wizards bench 35-15 and shot 32 of 39 from the free throw line which doubled the Wizards, which shot 16-17 from the stripe.
Hawks All-Star forward Paul Millsap, who scored 19 points, said the free-throw shooting came from hard fouls.
“We were playing basketball and they were playing [mixed martial arts],” he said. “They were physical. When the game’s like that, we just have to match their physicality.”
Millsap and Morris exchanged some words, but both said the conversation focused on basketball to try and get a competitive advantage.
“Just two guys playing hard,” Millsap said.