John Wall scored a career playoff-high 42 points, Bradley Beal added 31 and the Washington Wizards withstood a furious Atlanta comeback to close out the Hawks with a 115-99 victory Friday night, winning the opening-round playoff series 4-2.
The Hawks fell behind by 22 early in the third quarter before making a game of it down the stretch. But the home team never led, and Wall stymied the rally with huge plays at both ends of the court.
The former University of Kentucky star’s block of Dennis Schroder’s layup kept the Hawks from closing within a single point, and Wall hit every big shot in the closing minutes. He scored 19 points in the fourth quarter, ensuring that Washington picked up the first road victory by either team in the series.
“You could just tell he was locked in,” Beal said. “He was ready to go. We just feed off that.”
The Wizards advanced to face top-seeded Boston in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Celtics closed out the Bulls 4-2 with a 105-83 victory in Chicago.
Paul Millsap led the Hawks with 31 points, and Schroder had 26.
After losing three close games in Washington, the Hawks seemed to run out of steam in the return to Philips Arena, ending a disappointing season.
Washington pushed out to a double-digit lead late in the first quarter, and closed the first half on a 19-4 run to take a 65-46 lead at the break. The Hawks turned the ball over six times during that five-minute stretch, making things easy for the Wizards.
Atlanta finished with 22 turnovers, including seven by Kent Bazemore.
But it was Wall, still seething over a second-round loss to the Hawks two years ago in which he was sidelined with a broken hand, taking control in the final period.
“We came here with that focus and determination that we wanted to do the same thing those guys did to us two years ago,” Wall said. “Me and Brad led the way. We locked in. Our teammates understood what we had (to do). We didn’t want to have a Game 7.”
The turning point came with Atlanta on the cusp of coming all the way back.
With his team trailing 93-90, Schroder came up with a steal and took off for what looked like an uncontested layup. But Wall swooped in from behind and batted the ball off the backboard.
At the other end, Wall somehow got a stumbling drive to fall, further silencing a crowd that was in a frenzy as the home team rallied. Atlanta’s Jose Calderon missed a 3-pointer, and Wall knocked down a pullup jumper to stretch the lead back to 97-90.
The Hawks called timeout, and Wall stared down the fans at courtside before heading to the Washington bench.
After Wall’s huge block, Washington outscored Atlanta 22-9 to win going away.