Prior to Tuesday's Game 2, the Atlanta Hawks received a "gift" of sorts in that Washington Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall was forced to the bench with a left hand injury. However, Game 2 proved to be nothing approaching an "easy win" for the Hawks, and the team needed the great majority of 48 minutes in order to confirm a series-evening victory by a final score of 106-90.
In somewhat characteristic fashion, the home team put together a strong start. The Hawks raced to a 7-0 run to claim a 13-7 lead, and that advantage swelled to double-figures in the first quarter. On the whole, Atlanta shot 52% on the to a 28-20 lead, and the defense was flying around as well, limiting Washington to only 38% from the floor in the first 12 minutes.
Washington would, however, fight back a bit in the second quarter, slashing the lead to three points on multiple occasions and generally executing on a higher level offensively. The Wizards made 6 of their 11 three-point attempts (including 3 of 5 from Paul Pierce), and that allowed Washington to stick close despite a 41.3% shooting clip in the half.
The Wizards were also aided by some spotty shooting from Kyle Korver, who made only one of his seven three-point attempts in the half, including a potentially energizing basket in the waning seconds before halftime. Outside of Korver, though, it was a solid half offensively, with 46% shooting and 18 assists on 20 field goals. Individually, Paul Millsap (13 points) and DeMarre Carroll (12 points) helped to lead the squad to a seven-point halftime advantage.
In conjunction with the rest of the series (and the playoffs as a whole), the third quarter was utter madness at Philips Arena. The Wizards began the scoring with six straight points on back-to-back threes from Ramon Sessions (starting in place of the injured John Wall), and while Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll combined for nine points of their own in the early going, it was the Sessions show. In fact, Washington's backup point guard scored 10 straight points for his team, and that wasn't even the weirdest part of the quarter.
Following that exchange, the Wizards made their run, tying the game at 71-71 on an Otto Porter three at the 2:17 mark of the period. That was the fourth three of the game that needed multiple bounces on the rim before falling through for the Wizards, and on the other end, the Hawks rattled out two similar looks. Still, Atlanta managed to put together a 7-2 spurt to close the period, and a five-point lead at 80-75 felt like a gift given the events that transpired.
The good guys did respond with a strong start to the closing period, as Atlanta scored the first four points (11-2 overall) to take a 9-point lead at 84-75 with more than nine minutes remaining. On cue, though, the Wizards erased that goodwill with a 6-0 run of their own, setting the stage for a potential down-to-the-wire situation at 84-81.
From there, though, the home team took control. Atlanta went on a 11-2 spurt to grab a double-digit lead at 95-83 with 4:26 to play, and even with the Wizards quickly slicing that lead back to seven with back-to-back threes, Kyle Korver came to the rescue for a timely three to reclaim a 10-point advantage with 2:50 remaining. The full-on "dagger" wouldn't arrive until Paul Millsap connected on a jumper with 1:50 on the clock to make the lead 100-88, but it was cruise control from there en route to a 106-90 victory.
In form true to this team, Tuesday night was a balanced effort. Paul Millsap (18 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists), Al Horford (18 points, 6 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks) and DeMarre Carroll (22 points, 6 rebounds) posted impressive lines in the box score, while Kyle Korver knocked down three of his four three-point attempts after the half and Jeff Teague (9 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists) contributed despite an uneven shooting performance. Even the bench was productive, with Kent Bazemore (10 points on 3-3 shooting) breaking out of a shooting slump and the duo of Pero Antic (8 points, 3 rebounds) and Dennis Schröder (9 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists) providing strong showings.
The Atlanta Hawks have a long road ahead, but in a must-win atmosphere, they were able to produce a gutty victory to even the series at 1-1.