ATLANTA — The tag team of Dennis Schroder and Paul Millsap won Round 3 against the duo of John Wall and Markieff Morris, but the battle didn't stop after both teams left the Philips Arena floor.
Schroder and Millsap combined for 56 points to lead the Hawks to an 116-98 win against the Wizards on Saturday in Game 3, cutting Washington's lead in the first-round series to 2-1.
Wall scored 29 points on 10-of-12 shooting from the field, but none of his teammates, including the loquacious Morris, matched his effort. Morris scored nine points on 4 of 14 from the field. He was mostly quiet until after the game when he dropped some more words in the verbal warfare between the two squads.
"He's a crybaby," Morris said of Millsap. "Get all the calls, and you a crybaby."
Millsap had 29 points to go along with 14 rebounds and five assists. Before he was apprised of Morris’ comments, Millsap told the media that he enjoyed the matchup.
"It feels good when somebody gets in your face," Millsap said. "The intensity makes us play harder. It’s playoff basketball. We haven’t come out with that type of fire and effort in a long time. To do that in this game was big time for us."
Wall led the team in assists with seven, but the rest of the Wizards only had nine more, in part due to increased defensive pressure by the Hawks. The Wizards shot 41.6 percent from the field and 24.1 percent from 3-point range as a result of tighter defense. Bradley Beal had a particularly rough shooting night, going 6 of 20, including 0 of 6 from behind the arc. Schroder indicated there was an added emphasis on forcing anyone not wearing the No. 2 jersey to beat them.
"I got pissed off watching how freely Wall was bringing the ball up," Schroder said. "I told coach that I wanted to pick him up full court. We wanted to make him give the ball up and close out on shooters."
Wall didn’t exactly concur with Schroder’s take on why the offense struggled.
"Him picking me doesn’t faze me," Wall said. "That’s something he’s doing to show his teammates that he is serious or something. I ain’t worried."
Regardless of how much Wall was "fazed" by the defensive intensity, Schroder and Millsap won their individual matchups this time, and that may be the key to making a comeback in this series. In the two previous games, Wall and Morris won and talked the talk. The tables turned Saturday, if only for a night.
"They did what they were supposed to do," Wall said. "We took care of home court. They came home — we knew the crowd was going to be amazing for them. They got Game 3. Our job is to put the pressure on them to win Game 4."
Before Game 3, Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told Schroder to calm down on the trash talk. According to Schroder, Budenholzer wanted him to act more like Spurs star Kawhi Leonard. Schroder being Schroder, he pleaded to Budenholzer that the talk was all in fun and that it made him play harder.
"I'd like it if everybody was quiet and played beautiful basketball," Budenholzer said. "I know the trash talk is part of the game, but I also want my guys to be in control and focused."
For one game, the Hawks got the last word, but this could end up being a back-and-forth conversation.
After the game, Morris may have stirred the pot harder than he wanted to with Millsap. The Hawks All-Star forward wasn't happy when Candace Buckner of the The Washington Post told him what Morris said. Schroder let out an exasperated sigh before Millsap spoke like a hype man in a battle rap.
"It's personal now," Millsap said. "He needs to learn how to take a loss like a man. He can take his L back to the hotel and go to sleep."
Morris won't be asleep for long because Game 4 is on Monday. And to the possible dismay of Budenzholzer, trash talk is very much a part of this game.