Jose Calderon was a game best +29 in the Hawks 111-101 win over the Washington Wizards on Monday night to even the first round playoff series at 2-2. His surprising and desperately needed performance was the result of Dennis Schroder picking up his third personal foul with 2:29 remaining in the first quarter.
But what you probably don’t know (and I didn’t until I re-watched the game to chart it) was that the third foul on Schroder very well might not have happened had Marcin Gortat not had some sort of issue with a sneaker.
At the beginning of this possessions Wizards power forward Jason Smith is in the weak side corner as the Wizards on court unit is expecting Marcin Gortat to set a high screen for John Wall to initiate the offensive action. The only issue is that Gortat is struggling to correct some sort of problem he has encountered with the shoe on his right foot.
Smith ultimately scrambles up in an attempt to set a screen for Wall but that would completely mess up the Wizards floor balance. So, the undeniably smart John Wall realizes that maybe the most valuable way to leverage this possession is to try to draw a third personal foul on Schroder even as Jose Calderon is at the table waiting to sub in for Schroder at the next stoppage. I’m being serious when I say that I think Wall very well may have had full awareness of every one of these variables.
Wall starts to penetrate and draws the desired contact from Schroder and the result is that Calderon would play nearly the entirety of the remainder of the first half: advantage Wizards.
But Calderon had other ideas. He seized the opportunity to lead the Hawks from down nine points when he subbed in to up nine points when the second quarter ended. Calderon would go on to help the Hawks navigate a critical stretch in the second half as well; he subbed in when the Hawks were down by a point in the third quarter; the Hawks were up by five points when he exited in the fourth quarter. A very rested Schroder would hit four critical shots during the closing stretch of the game including a couple of three-pointers.
Consider how differently this game might have gone had Gortat not had that issue with his shoe. Schroder was struggling in that first quarter going 0 of 3 on field goal attempts with just one assist. By halftime Calderon would score eight points on seven shooting possessions while adding three assists. It really did seem to turn the entire trajectory of the game.
Here’s to hoping the Hawks get the seemingly incidental little nudges in the favorable direction as the series progresses.