Kent Bazemore scored a career-high 25 points, pushing the Atlanta Hawks to their seventh straight win over the Washington Wizards 114-99 at Philips Arena. His catch-and-shoot three with 3:35 to play against Bradley Beal’s late defense put the Hawks up 103-94.
“Its good to see the ball to go in because maybe eight to 10 months ago that may not have been the case,” said a smiling Bazemore in the postgame locker room.
The confidence the team has in Bazemore and he has in himself is obvious as Kent is now shooting 50% from three, placing him at fifth in the league for 3-point percentage. Coach Mike Budenholzer credits both the team’s playmaking and Bazemore’s ability to attack the rim, which keeps defenses guessing.
“I think he’s getting a lot of good rhythm shots, he’s getting a lot of opportunities,” said Budenholzer during the postgame media availability. “Hopefully we’re creating a lot of pressure on the paint, creating a lot of pressure on the rim. And he can do that too. I think the great thing is, obviously he’s making shots but he can attack and break the defense down and finish also. Obviously he had a very good game.”
Hawks forward Mike Scott agreed about the progress Bazemore has made toward becoming a high-impact player.
“All his hard work is starting to show,” said Scott. “His jump shot is getting a lot better and we feed off of his energy.”
After a shootout with the Pelicans the night before, the defense made its presence known in this game by forcing the Wizards into 24 turnovers. The Hawks appeared content to allow any Wizard other than John Wall and Bradley Beal to beat them. The dynamic backcourt were thrown different looks and forced into traps all night, resulting in 15 turnovers between the two.
“First of all Bradley Beal is one of the toughest covers in the league coming off screens,” said Budenholzer. “We can put Dennis [Schröder] on him at times, we put Baze on him at times, Thabo [Sefolosha] on him at times. And then we also can switch the look up on John Wall. So there’s some familiarity between these two teams. I think being able to change up the defensive look on those guys, tonight it looked okay. Other nights they’ve made us look bad.”
Budenholzer disputed the idea that the Hawks’ poor shooting in the first half was the result of playing four games in five nights.
“The way guys were getting loose balls and getting after it on the offensive boards … they were doing a lot of things that didn’t look tired to me,” said Budenholzer. “I think the defense just fueled us. We got a little bit of momentum, a little bit of bounce in our step. Guys were confident shooting it. I thought they played hard really from the beginning, and not tired.”
As the first quarter expired, Sefolosha made his coach’s point by chasing down Jared Dudley to pin his layup attempt and keep the score locked at 19-19.
The hustle continued in the second quarter as Schröder made up for a bad pass by diving on the floor to snatch a loose ball away from Dudley. He got it to Scott, who tapped it ahead to Al Horford for a dunk and a 21-19 Hawks lead. Then with 8:02 to play in the second quarter, John Wall attempted to post up Jeff Teague, who picked his pocket and fed Scott for a layup that broke a 28-28 deadlock.
In the fourth quarter, Mike Muscala hit a 3-pointer with 6:09 to play that gave the Hawks a lead they would not relinquish. Schröder added a layup off a Bazemore assist before assisting Sefolosha, who took his pass in transition and punched one on Nenê to put the Hawks ahead 97-94. Bazemore added a hustle play of his own with a steal of a Wall pass and a layup and free throw to make it 100-94 Hawks with 4:01 remaining.
Paul Millsap finished with 21 points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Hawks. Horford finished with 14 points and nine rebounds and Teague chipped in with 10 points, eight assists and five steals.
For the Wizards, Otto Porter, Jr., scored a team-high 23 points with three rebounds. Wall added 19 points and 12 assists but committed seven turnovers. Atlanta’s wing corps held Bradley Beal to 11 points on 5-for-12 shooting (0-for-2 from 3-point range), six rebounds and six assists with eight turnovers. Marcin Gortat had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, adding a pair of steals. Nenê also had 10 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and three steals off the bench.
Bazemore entered the game shooting a ridiculous 10-for-12 (83%) on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers. Bazemore shot 4-for-7 on catch-and-shoot threes against the Wizards, leaving him at 73.7% for the season. The Hawks now turn their attention to a young Timberwolves team coming off a big win in Chicago on Saturday. That game tips off Monday at 8 PM EST at Philips Arena.
Highlights for this story were prepared by HawksHoop contributor Jake Martinsek. Follow @Eyeboah5 and @IAmMartinsek on Twitter.