WASHINGTON—Ten observations from Wizards113, Hawks 94. . .
1. This was a dispiriting effort for the Hawks, who suffered their largest losing margin of the season. They looked over-matched for only the second time in 13 games. But the Wizards ain’t the Rockets, especially once you get beyond their top four. Yet the Wizards buried the Hawks at the start of the fourth quarter with a 12-0 run with five bench players on the floor. John Wall appeared to be at half speed after missing shootaround because of illness but he only had to log 24 minutes because Washington’s reserves handled the Hawks.
2. The start of the fourth quarter was bad for the Hawks but coach Mike Budenholzer cited a different sequence as key. The Hawks led by seven points in the second quarter when Marcin Gortat rebounded Markieff Morris’ missed 3-pointer, then Morris rebounded Bradley Beal’s missed layup and fed to John Wall for an and-1. Taurean Prince missed a 3 that Wall rebounded before quickly passing ahead to Morris for a transition three that cut the lead to one. “The game kind of changed,” Budenholzer said.
3. The Hawks finished with 23 turnovers that the Wizards turned into 39 points. Hawks starters combined for 19 giveaways, with Taurean Prince and Dewayne Dedmon committing five each. The Hawks have been better defending the three-point line but now turnovers have become a persistent issue.
4. Budenholzer pregame on Dennis Schroder as scorer and play-maker: “That’s the fine line that great point guards have to walk. It’s kind of a constant conversation with Dennis. . . . Dennis knows that we need him to do both. He’s just got to make great reads and great decisions. But when he’s aggressive that is when we are at our best. That’s really where we try to put him is in that mindset of being aggressive and just kind of taking what the game gives him.”
5. Schroder has been pretty good with that balance but not tonight (seven points on 16 shots). He stopped the ball too often and kept forcing drives in traffic against Washington’s bigs. (But, weirdly, Schroder was active on the boards with four rebounds by halftime, matching his season-high for an entire game, and finished with seven.)
Schroder: “I missed a lot of shots. It was not my night. I still tried to support and give everything I have. But sometimes you’re going to have nights like that. Next game, in two days we’ve got to get ready for that.”
6. Before the game I asked Budenholzer if the Hawks learned their lesson from the slow start at Detroit on Friday: “I certainly hope so. When you can see something and feel it the way they did that is usually the most tangible way to learn instead of talking about it in theory. I think our guys will come out ready.” The results were mixed on that:
7. The Hawks were energetic on defense early with lots of deflections. Taurean Prince led that effort. He was stalking the passing lanes and weakside with good anticipation and using his long wingspan to get a piece of the ball. The Hawks have shown they are the kind of team that can make opponents pay if they get careless with their passes and Prince usually is in the middle of that action. But this happened in the third quarter:
“We’ve got to do a better job of keeping our emotions our frustrations in check,” Budenholzer said.
8. Atlanta’s second unit got the offense going with Malcolm Delaney leading the way. During a seven-minute stretch he made all four of his shots, including a trio of three-pointers. Playing off the ball with Isaiah Taylor has been a good look for him and he’s the best defender among the trio that includes Schroder and Isaiah Taylor.v
9. Budenholzer got creative when John Collins went to the bench with three fouls in the second quarter.
Budenholzer stuck with that lineup for a few possessions even after Brooks went back to twin towers Gortat and Morris.
10. Luke Babbitt had a bad shooting night (1-for-5 on threes) but I don’t see how he doesn’t stay in the starting lineup after Mike Muscala and Ersan Ilyasova return. Budenholzer pregame on Babbitt as starter: “Offensively it feels like we are playing better. I think he creates space with his shooting ability and the attention the defense has to give him. I think he’s a ball mover, too. He moves without the ball and keeps it moving. I’ve been really happy with his impact on the offense, and it’s just him doing what he does naturally.” I thought Babbitt had a positive impact even with the off shooting. He’s been rebounding well and I haven’t seen much evidence that he hurts the Hawks defensively. The Wizards kept trying to go at Babbitt with bigger players but he held his ground reasonably well and challenged shots. His help defense has improved, too.
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