John Wall and Bradley Beal deliver 'Double MMA' punch to send Hawks staggering

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Following Washington Wizards point guard John Wall’s dominating Game 1 performance, Atlanta Hawks forward and fellow Eastern Conference All-Star Paul Millsap said, “We were playing basketball. They were playing MMA.” If he thought the Wizards would back down, Washington’s Markieff Morris made sure Millsap knew Game 2 would be quite the opposite.

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Even if the referees were listening to Millsap’s message, granting Atlanta 38 free throws (after the Hawks shot 39 in Game 1), it didn’t keep the Wizards from punching them in the mouth. Whether it was “Double MMA” or not, Wall imposed his will again, Bradley Beal kept shooting and Marcin Gortat brought the Polish Hammer. Washington rolled to a 109-101 win to take a 2-0 series lead and maintain home-court advantage entering Game 3 in Atlanta on Saturday.

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With Wall (32 points, nine assists) running, Beal (31 points) gunning and Gortat (14 points, 10 rebounds, five blocks) doing the dirty work, the Wizards rattled off a 10-0 run to take a 16-6 lead midway through the first quarter. That’s when Wall revealed in a pre-recorded interview for the NBA TV broadcast that his dominant play had some inspiration.

John Wall finds his happy place. (AP)
John Wall finds his happy place. (AP)

At some point, the Wizards star saw a photo on Instagram from the 2015 Eastern Conference semifinals of Atlanta’s Dennis Schroder and Kent Bazemore seemingly mocking him after Al Horford’s Game 5 winner gave the Hawks a 3-2 series lead (and an eventual six-game series win):

John Wall feeds off of this photo. (Getty Images)
John Wall feeds off of this photo. (Getty Images)

“Revenge,” Wall said of this playoff rematch with the Hawks. “It’s revenge.”

So, Wall was fully prepared to destroy Schroder, and let him know that on a third-quarter dunk:

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Wall’s dunk gave the Wizards a seven-point lead three minutes into the second half, and save for a flurry of Schroder buckets that gave the Hawks a 24-23 lead at the end of the first quarter, Washington was in full control to that point. Fans at the Verizon Center were totally comfortable flashing their hastily made “Double MMA” signs behind Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer.

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But the Hawks weren’t about to go down without a fight. With fouls mounting for Washington …

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… Millsap kept playing basketball, as the no-sizzle All-Star is wont to do, scoring 14 points on just five shots and grabbing four rebounds in the third quarter. With help from his fellow starters — sans Dwight Howard, who was ineffective and played only 20 minutes in the game — Millsap helped the Hawks win the frame, 35-23, and take a 78-74 lead into the final 12 minutes.

The Hawks had their chance to extend the lead with Wall on the bench, but the Wizards reserves — keyed by a trio of jumpers from Brandon Jennings — clawed their way to even, 84-84, with eight minutes left. Even as Millsap (27 points, 10 rebounds), Schroder (23 points, six assists) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (19 points) traded baskets with Washington, it was only a matter of time before Wall and Beal delivered a knockout punch.

“Throughout the course of the game, we weren’t worried at all, because we weren’t playing good nor did we have our core guys on the floor at the same time,” Beal told reporters afterward. “It was just a matter of being patient and keeping ourselves in the game.”

That blow finally came when Wall poked the ball loose on a reach-around gamble against Bazemore and leaked out for a breakaway dunk to give the Wizards a five-point lead with a minute left:

Then, Beal knocked down a dagger 3-pointer to put it away on the next possession:

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Now, the Wizards have the Hawks in a Double MMA hold somewhere between an arm bar and the guillotine, not only holding a 2-0 lead heading down to Atlanta for Game 3, but traveling south with a group of bombastic bruisers who sure look capable of going another couple rounds:

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If Washington has another level, as Morris suggests, it won’t be long before Atlanta taps out.

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don’t Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!