Jake Whitacre of the great Wizards blog Bullets Forever kindly suggested an exchange of questions between blogs. Here’s the questions I gave him (and his answers, naturally).
1. Wall and Beal seem to be on a whole other level in these playoffs. What is clicking for them and how are they playing off of each other?
The main thing that really stood out in the first round for me was how they helped force turnovers. They combined to average 4 steals per game against Atlanta, which helped them get out in transition where they're both so effective and limited Atlanta's ability to set up their very good halfcourt defense. The other thing that worked out well for them in the first round was each player's improved floater game. The Hawks did a solid job of keeping them out of the paint for the most part, but Wall and Beal responded by making some shots on floaters to negate Atlanta's rim protection and keep passing lanes open when the Hawks tried to collapse on them.
It also helps that this isn't Wall and Beal's first rodeo. They've won three playoff series together now and they had some personal history against the Hawks from their series in 2015, so that probably played a part in why they came out strong against Atlanta.
2. The Celtics struggled mightily to keep the Bulls off the boards and as a result Robin Lopez looked like a star. I have a great deal of respect for Gortat's game. Should I just put him down for 12 rebounds per game right now?
That would probably be a good idea. Gortat had a very challenging series against the Hawks offensively. He only scored 6.5 points per game on 46.2 percent shooting against Atlanta, but he didn't let his shooting woes affect his rebounding. He still grabbed over 10 rebounds per game against Atlanta and didn't let Dwight Howard and Paul Millsap control the paint.
I don't know if Gortat will have any more luck scoring against the Celtics than he did against the Bulls, but I expect he'll still have a big impact with the way he's been able to stay active on the boards, and with his excellent screening ability.
3. It seems like Boston's opponents always have a random guy that steps up and gives them fits. In the last series it was guys like Bobby Portis, Paul Zipser, and Isaiah Canaan. Who is the most likely bench guy that could step up for the Wizards?
If someone on the bench goes off, it will likely be Bojan Bogdanovic. He was in a little bit of a slump for most of April, but played well in Game 5 and 6. When he has his outside shot going, it opens up so much more for the rest of the Wizards' bench. It gives Brandon Jennings more room to probe the defense and it gives Jason Smith more room to get up his shots, which can also be very effective.
4. Obviously things have been chippy between these teams. They know that they have to take care of business in the playoffs but sometimes that only heightens the emotions. Do you anticipate any extracurricular activities?
A team with Markieff Morris on it will always be involved in extracurricular activities.
That said, I'm more worried about John Wall and Bradley Beal in this series. They've both lost their cool against Boston in the past and they really can't afford to get caught up in something in this series. If either one gets suspended or ejected for an altercation with Marcus Smart or Jae Crowder, that hurts Washington a lot more than it hurts Boston. Hopefully Wall and Beal can keep that in mind during any tense situations that may arise in this series.
Thanks Jake! I’d say “best of luck” but I wouldn’t mean it. So may the best blog win!