WASHINGTON — Through the first three quarters of Game 2 of the Washington Wizards' opening playoff series, Bradley Beal made only 6 of 18 shots. And that came after shooting just 9 for 21 in Game 1.
Did all of those misses bother him? Not one bit. Instead, he relied on a silly play on words that he says his agent taught him.
"It's something I always tell myself: I don't know what a 'miss' is. A 'miss' is a 'lady,'" Beal explained with a smile. "Everybody's confident in me. Coach is more than confident in me. So I just rise up and shoot it."
In a rough-and-tumble, foul-filled game, Beal and backcourt mate John Wall took over in the fourth quarter Wednesday night, combining to score 20 of Washington's last 21 points in a 109-101 victory over the Atlanta Hawks that gave the Wizards a 2-0 lead in their Eastern Conference series.
Beal finished with 31 points, 16 on 6-of-9 shooting in the final period.
"He's a franchise guy, with me, also on this team. We need him to be the scorer for us," Wall said. "We don't care if he shoots the ball 30 times."
Wall earned chants of "M-V-P!" while contributing 32 points and nine assists, including a dish to Beal for his key 3-pointer with 38 seconds remaining that sealed the win for the hosts. As soon as Beal let the ball fly, Wall raised both arms in celebration.
"When he shoots it," Wall said of that shot, "it's game over."
Washington, which trailed 78-74 entering the final period, won despite a total of only seven points from starting forwards Markieff Morris and Otto Porter Jr., who were both in foul trouble early.
"It was a tricky game to coach," said Washington's Scott Brooks, who avoided postgame criticism of the officiating, joking that he already knew he would be getting a text message from his daughter about a $2,000 fine he drew for a technical foul.
Game 3 is Saturday at Atlanta.
Paul Millsap led the Hawks with 27 points and 10 rebounds, and Dennis Schroder scored 23 points. But Dwight Howard had only seven rebounds, half his Game 1 total, and six points. Afterward, Howard responded to three consecutive questions from reporters with "I don't know," then replied "No" to one, before going back to "I don't know."
After Washington won the series opener over the weekend, Millsap bemoaned aloud about how things went, saying: "The difference in the game is we were playing basketball and they were playing MMA."
That became a talking point during the off days, and perhaps affected the way Game 2 was called. It was hardly akin to a mixed martial arts bout, but the officials sure seemed determined to use their whistles upon seeing anything resembling a foul.
There were 29 personal fouls in the opening 24 minutes, 55 for the game. In the third quarter, many voices in the sellout crowd of 20,356 joined in full-throated chants of derision directed at the officials.
Hawks: Shot 0 for 8 on 3-point attempts in the first half, and finished 4 for 20. ... Held Washington 16 fast-break points, nine fewer than in Game 1.
Wizards: Backup C Ian Mahinmi sat out again with a strained left calf; Brooks said he'll miss Game 3.
WHERE WAS HOWARD?
Howard finished with a hair under 20 minutes and only took five shots.
"Just went with some of our smaller groups and he didn't get back in," Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. "Just a little bit of a gut feel."
Backup G Brandon Jennings accounted for eight consecutive points while Wall rested in the fourth quarter.
"We were a little stagnant on offence," Beal said. "He pushes the pace every time he's in the game, which is what we needed."
According to Millsap, Atlanta has a big edge when both teams play with smaller lineups, something Washington was forced to do as fouls accumulated.
"It's simple: Our small ball is better than theirs," Millsap said. "We think we play small ball better than anybody in the league."
Game 3 is Saturday.
Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich
More AP NBA coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball