The Atlanta Hawks and Washington Wizards don’t have a friendly past. At least not the last three years, as the two teams have played a total of 22 times in the last three seasons.
The two teams have seen each other a lot in the big, high-pressure situations. Not only as combatants in the Southeast division, but the two teams played two back-to-back wars disguised as playoff series.
There were hard feelings.
Wizards forward Markeiff Morris has some choice words for then-Hawks forward Paul Millsap as he referred to Millsap as a ‘Crybaby’ following Game 3. Morris heard boos and cheers when he missed a free throw Wednesday night. Wizards’ point guard John Wall fired social media jabs at Hawks’ point guard Dennis Schroder after the Wizards eliminated the Hawks in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. This was iced off by multiple on-court altercations over the six games.
Point being, the two franchises don’t necessarily like one another. Wednesday, the schedule had them squaring off for the second time this season with expectations of more ‘chippiness’ between the teams.
“It seems like that was forever ago, it seems like both teams have had chippy moments both regular season and in playoff games and everything,” Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer said. “I think it’s two competitive teams and when you know each other well and when you kind of almost anticipate and expect what’s coming, I think it leads to that little bit of extra edge from both sides. If it happens in a regular season game it’s not a surprise when you’ve played each other a ton.”
The Hawks haven’t forgotten. They haven’t forgotten that it was the Wizards who knocked them out of the postseason last season in addition to all of the back-and-forths that went on during games and through media off the court.
“You sort of [think about the chippiness], kind of have to, this is the team that put you out last year,” Hawks’ forward Taurean Prince said. “You kind of get fired up against a team like that. On top of that even if that wasn’t the case, they’re a good team and this is a good chance to get a good win.”
Both teams managed to behave on Wednesday with the fireworks coming on the court. The Hawks played inspired on both ends of the floor to earn the 113-99 win over the Wizards on Wednesday. Schroder led the way with 21 points and seven assists. Ersan Ilyasova scored 20 points, while Marco Belinelli added 19 off the bench. The Hawks defense added some quick and excitement to a mostly full-Philips Arena. John Collins blocked three shots. Kent Bazemore swatted a shot off the backboard that brought the crowd to its feet. Prince added two more blocks as the Hawks totaled seven blocks on the night. Hawks also held Wall to only 10 points.
“Good win for us coming off three days without a game,” Budenholzer said. “We had a couple stretches where we couldn’t score but our defense kept us in it and we kept getting enough stops.”