- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 5, 2015

ATLANTA — During a quiet pregame interview, an instance where there is little left to ask or say at this point in the season, Washington Wizards coach Randy Wittman assured all was well. He said all of his players would be at his disposal for Game 2 on Tuesday night. Bradley Beal’s sprained ankle had been repaired. John Wall’s sprained left wrist and accompanying swollen hand would be mended enough that he would be able to play. Wall himself said earlier in the day he had “no doubt” that he would participate.

Then, warmups came. It was a brief test of Wall’s wrist and hand, which had black tape on it. He left the court and the news spread. Washington would be without its best player for Game 2. The subsequent 106-90 loss, the Wizards‘ first of the postseason, to the Atlanta Hawks that evened the series at 1-1 with the Eastern Conference’s top seed was of little surprise.

At shootaround Tuesday morning, Wall thought he would be able to play. The swelling in his non-shooting hand had receded. He had dribbled, but did little else.

When he tested his wrist in warmups, he knew there was a problem.

“The ball wouldn’t stay where I wanted it to,” Wall said. “I don’t want to go out there and have 100 turnovers. That’d be a waste of time.”

Wall said he will continue with treatment the next three days and receive a second opinion. He reiterated that nothing is broken, and that his injury is a “real, real bad sprain.”

“Probably live in the training room the next three days,” Wall said. “Get the swelling to go down, get another opinion and see where this is going.”

The all-star point guard was injured in Game 1 on Sunday when Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague ran underneath Wall while he was on the break. Wall put out his left hand to brace himself during the fall. After landing, Wall remained on the ground for some time and later said he thought he broke his left wrist. He had previously broken that wrist during his sophomore year in high school. X-rays after the game did not show a break.

Ramon Sessions capably started in his place. He scored 21 points. He just is not Wall, which showed during a sputtering start and Atlanta’s ability to keep the Wizards out of fastbreaks all night.

Wall did not practice Monday. He did little during shootaround Tuesday.

Before Game 2, Wittman lauded Wall, saying Wall was one of the toughest players he had been around and that a decision for him to play was up to Wall and the doctors, after noting all players would be available. Wittman added that if Wall ever actually sat out, it meant he was really hurt. That was the scenario 90 minutes later.

Sitting Wall out Tuesday night gives him an extended break. The Wizards don’t play Game 3 until Saturday, which would be the longest break of the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Wizards will have three full days to practice and rest before a 5 p.m. tip at Verizon Center.

Sessions was acquired Feb. 19 in a trade for Andre Miller. The Wizards often played him next to Wall, as well as with the second unit. With Wall out of the rotation and Sessions starting, Garrett Temple, who had not played since March 9 because of a hamstring injury, was the next guard off the bench. Will Bynum was active, but did not play.

Offensive stagnation followed without Wall. Though the Wizards trailed by just seven points, 53-46, at halftime, their ball movement was muted. They had nine assists in the first half and only three in the first quarter. The opening 12 minutes was an offensive mish-mash as the Wizards tried to figure out how to play without their most important player and Wittman tried various lineups.

Atlanta could not get away, however. Its lead went up to 10, then crumbled to three with 2:04 to play in the second quarter. Paul Pierce’s three 3-pointers to keep the Wizards afloat. Sessions scored seven points in the half, but provided just one assist. Still, after an unproductive first quarter in which the Wizards scored just 20 points, the 26 in the second was an improvement.

The Wizards continued to push in the third. Otto Porter’s 3-pointer bounced in to tie the score at 71-71. He had another strong night with 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

Porter’s 3-pointer was one of four shots the Wizards had bounce in during the course of the evening, a benefit they could use without Wall available. Atlanta countered with one of its lead weapons during the season, the 3-point shot. After making only three in the first half, the Hawks made five in the third quarter. DeMarre Carroll, who had another strong scoring night with 22 points, was fouled shooting a three and made all three free throws. The Hawks slipped out of the quarter with a five-point lead.

The Wizards stayed close for most of the fourth quarter — they were within five points with 6:01 to play — despite their big men struggling. Marcin Gortat fouled out. Nene has not scored a field goal in the first two games against the mobile Hawks.

“We could have had better execution there in the fourth,” Pierce said. “It was a tight ball game. We put ourselves in position in the fourth quarter right where we wanted to be, down five or four with like five minutes to go. That’s all you can ask for on the road, to give yourself a chance. But, got to have better execution down the stretch regardless if John is playing or not. We felt like this is a game we could have won.”

Fending off Washington without Wall was a chore for Atlanta, but one it had to accomplish to reset the series and assure a future home game. The Wizards hope Wall can heal enough that he will be available Saturday night. Without him, little is assured.

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