- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Brandon Jennings wagged his left index finger and mouthed, “One more, one more” as he walked to the locker room. Jennings was using his right hand to slap hands with joyous fans while delivering his decree. One more. That’s all that remains for Washington now.

Wednesday night’s 103-99 Wizards win was more survival than controlled result.

It will not be remembered for grace or ease. But, it will be the win noted for putting Washington ahead 3-2 against the Atlanta Hawks in its first-round playoffs series.

Two chances to advance are on the horizon. Game 6 is in Atlanta — where Washington is yet to win in this series — on Friday night. If Game 7 is necessary, it will be back in Verizon Center on Sunday.

Tension brewed with 2:49 to play. Markieff Morris’ fifth foul led to an argument that led to a technical foul. The made free throw was followed by a Wizards miss and a Hawks dunk. Washington’s lead was a meager two points. Washington coach Scott Brooks called timeout.

Much like the series, play swung evenly from there until John Wall’s jump shot. With just 47 seconds to play, the night’s scoring had finished.

Wall’s long isolation jump shot went in and a careening end began. Marcin Gortat stifled Paul Millsap’s drive. Wall missed. Gortat pulled in the offensive rebound, looked around and discovered himself open with 12 seconds to play. He decided to shoot instead of hold the ball or pass it. He missed.

“He’ll make that every night of the year other than tonight,” Brooks said.

But, the clock offered Atlanta few options. Tim Hardaway Jr. missed a 3-pointer. The horn went off, the home team was relieved.

Bradley Beal scores 27 points. Wall finished with 20 points and 14 assists. That duo also received some help. Otto Porter scored 17 points and Bojan Bogdanovic provided 14 off the bench. 

“We made a few more winning basketball plays,” Brooks said. “We made a few more shots.”

Washington had cured so many maladies by the end of the third quarter. It led points in the paint, 30-28, after being crushed in that area the first four games of the series. It was almost level in rebounds after being clobbered there for the opening quarter-plus Wednesday. It had turned the ball over just five times. It was plus-8 in fast-break points.

And yet, it led by only four points at the end of the third. Atlanta absorbed a third-quarter blow which put it behind by 11 points, then rallied to tie the game two minutes after run-stopping timeout.

Throughout the night, containing Hawks point guard Dennis Schroder continued to be a problem. The darting, German-born 23-year-old made all four of his 3-pointers in the first half and five on the night.

His 16 points carried the Hawks through a first half in which they shot just 41.3 percent. He prefers trash-talking and flair — he arrived Wednesday with metallic silver shoes on — to a stoic approach. With the lights brightest in the playoffs, Schroder has tormented Washington. He finished with 29 points.

Washington used a wrinkle and watched a norm in the first half.

It flashed a trap at Hawks menace Millsap, who had spent the first four games dicing up Markieff Morris on isolations. The new tactic worked: It created a turnover. Brooks had been loathe to double-team any player during the regular season. He said before the game Washington had some defensive changes in mind. That was one.

But Morris was not able to stay out of his standard foul trouble.

By the half he again had three fouls and claimed a fourth less than three minutes into the third quarter. The Wizards used him often at the start of the game to attack Millsap.

Morris scored eight points against Millsap, leaving him just a point shy of his totals from Game 3 and 4, respectively. Millsap also left the half early because he committed three fouls. He was not called for another.

Washington held a one-point lead once the grinder of a half ended. Atlanta led by seven at one point; Washington by five.

Both knew whomever failed in the second half would be facing elimination 48 hours later. It turns out that’s the issue now facing Atlanta, as Jennings was more than happy to note.

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