December 12, 2017 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

Wall, Beal lead Wizards past Hawks; Rockets take 2-0 lead

WASHINGTON -- Bradley Beal scored 16 of his 31 points in the final quarter as the Washington Wizards seized a 2-0 lead in their first-round National Basketball Association (NBA) playoff series with a 109-101 win over the Atlanta Hawks yesterday.

John Wall delivered a team-high 32 points as he and Beal tallied 20 of the Wizards’ final 21 points in a penalty-filled contest.

The Wizards fell behind 89-88 with just over six minutes left in regulation. A Beal layup put Washington up for good at 96-94 and Wall’s free throw with 25 seconds left capped the decisive 16-4 run and put the Wizards ahead 107-98.

Washington won the series opener 114-107 on Monday. Wall had 32 points and 14 assists as the Wizards scored 69 points in the second half.

Game Three is in Atlanta on Saturday (Sunday, Manila time) as the Wizards have won five in a row over the Hawks.

Paul Millsap had 27 points and 10 rebounds for the Hawks. Dennis Schroder scored 23 points and Tim Hardaway, Jr. had 19. Atlanta committed 18 turnovers.

After Game One, Millsap made a point of calling out what he considered overly aggressive play from the Wizards -- “They were playing MMA (mixed martial arts),” he said.

In Game Two, the teams were whistled for 55 fouls and took a combined 71 free throws. Atlanta was 33-of-38 and Washington finished 24-of-33.

After shooting six-of-18 after three quarters, Beal sank six of nine in the fourth, including two of his four from beyond the arc.

Washington’s Marcin Gortat easily controlled the head-to-head matchup as Dwight Howard’s struggles in the playoffs continued. Hawks center Howard had just six points and seven rebounds.

Elsewhere, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams caught fire in the fourth quarter as the Houston Rockets rallied for a 115-111 playoff win over the Oklahoma City Thunder who lost despite another 50-point performance by guard Russell Westbrook.

The Rockets erased a 15-point deficit to take a 2-0 lead after Game Two of their Western Conference first-round playoff series.

Westbrook delivered a triple-double of 51 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds but couldn’t get the ball to drop when it counted. He shot a dismal four-of-18 in the fourth quarter.

Gordon gave the Rockets their first lead with his three-pointer at the 8:07 mark of the fourth quarter at 96-94.

Gordon delivered another clutch basket with 1:48 remaining, drilling a 28-footer off a James Harden pass to extend the lead to eight.

Harden finished with 35 points and eight assists and was a perfect 18-for-18 from the free throw line.

Game Three is Friday (Saturday, Manila time) in Oklahoma City. -- AFP