WASHINGTON — When John Wall sees backcourt partner Bradley Beal square up for a jump shot, one thought goes through his mind: “Game over.”
If the Washington Wizards guards continue producing at high levels, the Atlanta Hawks might find the series over sooner than desired.
Wall scored 32 points and Beal had 16 of his 31 in the fourth quarter as the Wizards outdueled the Hawks 109-101 on Wednesday night to take a 2-0 lead in their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series.
Wall and Beal scored 20 of Washington’s final 21 points in the foul-plagued game after the Wizards trailed 89-88 with 6:03 remaining. That included the team’s final seven field goals.
Beal’s layup put Washington up for good at 96-94 and Wall’s free throw with 25.8 seconds left capped the decisive 16-4 run and put the Wizards ahead 107-98.
“We just have a lot of confidence,” Wall said about the pair turning into closers for Washington during their third playoff appearance and first since 2015. “We’ve been in these situations where coaches know we’re going to get the ball. We were doing a great job of making shots, but also making the right reads for our teammates.”
Washington won the series opener 114-107 on Sunday. Wall had 32 points and 14 assists as the Wizards scored 69 points in the second half. The series shifts to Atlanta for Game 3 on Saturday. The Wizards have won five in a row over the Hawks.
Paul Millsap had 27 points and 10 rebounds and sank 14 of 15 free throws for the Hawks. Dennis Schroder scored 23 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. had 19, but Atlanta was 4 of 20 on 3-pointers and committed 18 turnovers.
“This is a game where it felt like there was some improvement from (Game) 1 to 2,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “That is what we have to keep doing. Obviously, the fourth quarter was not good offense.”
The Hawks missed 10 of 16 attempts in the fourth quarter and the Wizards hit 14 of 21.
After Game 1, Millsap made a point of calling out what he considered overly aggressive play from the Wizards — “They were playing MMA.” Fair or foul, his comments set the tone for the rematch. The teams were whistled for 55 fouls and took a combined 71 free throws. Atlanta shot 33 of 38 and Washington finished 24 of 33.
“I think they did a great job of keeping it within the guidelines of basketball,” Hawks guard Kenz Bazemore said. “Wasn’t too crazy out there. We had our chances but fell short.”
Foul trouble plagued Washington’s frontcourt and taxed its second unit. Starting forwards Markieff Morris and Otto Porter played a total of six minutes in the third quarter after each picked up their fourth foul early in the quarter. Morris, who had 21 points in 38 minutes in Game 1, had three in 20 during Game 2.
Not coincidentally, Millsap dominated the third quarter with 14 points, including six during a 13-0 that put Atlanta up 74-67. That lead remained until the Wizards reserves made their biggest contribution. Brandon Jennings had 10 points.
The veteran guard, acquired by Washington last month, hit back-to-back jumpers and fed Jason Smith for a tying dunk during a 70-second flurry.
Beal followed with a jumper for an 86-84 lead, one of seven lead changes in the final 7:18. After shooting 6 of 18 after three quarters, Beal sank 6 of 9 attempts in the fourth, including two of his four 3-pointers.
“I’m proud of the way Brad played,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “He didn’t shoot the ball well and he didn’t give in to a bad shooting night. Then it came around to him. The game rewards you.”
Marcin Gortat controlled the head-to-head matchup with Hawks center Dwight Howard, finishing with had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Wizards. Howard had six points and seven rebounds.
NOTES: Game 3 is scheduled for Saturday with Game 4 on Monday. … Wizards C Ian Mahinmi (calf) will not play in Game 3, Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. Mahinmi last played April 10 at Detroit. …Hawks F Taurean Prince scored 12 points for the Hawks and G Kent Bazemore had eight. … Wizards C Marcin Gortat also had 14 points and 10 rebounds in the series opener. … The teams split the two regular season meetings in Atlanta with Washington winning the most recent meeting 112-86 on Jan. 27.