The Atlanta Hawks were involved in another close encounter at Verizon Center in their best-of-7 series against the Washington Wizards but came up short 99-103, meaning the Wizards take a pivotal 3-2 lead back to Atlanta ahead of Friday’s Game 6, with the Hawks looking to take the series back to D.C. one more time…
The Wizards were led by Bradley Beals’ 27 points while John Wall added 20 points. For the Hawks, they were led by Dennis Schröder’s 29 points and 11 assists (first Hawk since 1973 when Pete Maravich to record such a line) while Paul Millsap added 21 points.
A fantastic performance from Schröder, who has responded in a big way after his tough first half in Game 4.
Another close game slips away, now Hawks face elimination
One thing you have to give this group credit for: they never give up.
The Hawks trailed by as many as nine points in the fourth quarter and, let’s be honest, hadn’t exactly played the most amazing game in the world. Yet, somehow, the Hawks kept at it and, following a dunk from Taurean Prince in transition, cut the lead to two points with 2:52 remaining. And when it seemed to get away from the Hawks when Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat extended the lead back to five points with just over a minute remaining. But the Hawks weren’t done. Dennis Schröder responded with a huge three-pointer that cut the lead to just two points with 1:01 remaining in the game.
Immediately, however, the Wizards come down the other end and take the lead with a John Wall jump shot behind the Gortat screen. Though I, personally, thought that an offensive foul should’ve been charged for a moving screen by Gortat, not for his first screen but the second one, the one that frees up Wall:
But it’s the fourth quarter of a playoff game in the opposing team’s building. The refs are not going to call that and, to be fair, they didn’t call Gortat for moving screens this entire game. If you want to see much, much more of this sort of thing, Hawks writer KL Chouinard assembled a fantastic compilation at @ATLand29. So, check that out.
That shot put the Wizards up by four and the Hawks call for a timeout. Out of it, the Hawks go to Paul Millsap, who is hammered by Gortat as he tries to lay the ball home, much to the anger of Millsap and coach Bud on the sideline.
A huge no-call and now the Wizards — up by four points — can drain the clock and make things very difficult for the Hawks indeed. As the shot clock expires, Wall puts up a tough shot which is rebounded by Gortat, who — for some reason — tries to shoot the ball when he does not have to (Wiz leading by two possessions with 12 seconds remaining). Anyways, that misses, and the Hawks come the other way but take far too long to get any shot up and the shot that does go up misses and it’s over just like that. Not the greatest of final possessions…
The Hawks had a timeout, why didn’t they use it? Well, it’s not uncommon for teams in close games — if they secure the rebound — to not call a timeout in order to get the opposing team scrambling in transition. I guess that’s what the thought process was here? Either way, when it became clear there wasn’t anything on, a timeout should’ve been called. It wasn’t and now the Hawks trail 2-3 heading back to Atlanta.
After the final buzzer, Paul Millsap struggled to contain his anger at the officials, making his feelings known about their officiating of him in the final minutes of this game.
Those of us who watch the Hawks know that this is never something Paul Millsap does unless he’s absolutely certain that he has been given the short end of the stick and he absolutely did in this game in fourth quarter. And even then, he doesn’t go to the officials in this manner at the end of games. The fact that not a single technical foul was called on Millsap for his reactions to some plays we’re about to look at (as well as the reaction after the final buzzer) says a lot about how the officials feel about what they’ve done.
We showed the no-call involving Gortat with 37 seconds remaining, but earlier in the fourth quarter there was this obvious no-call on Gortat, who had his arm hooked around Millsap’s, that Paul was unhappy about.
As you can see, Millsap was unhappy this contact that went unnoticed. It looks worse when replayed, however:
Incredible fadeaway shot, but in what world is this not a foul?
That was bad, however, this next one might be the worst of the lot… Just look at all the contact Bradley Beal makes with Millsap’s arm on this layup attempt:
Straightaway, Bud and Millsap are absolutely incredulous with this no-call.
I, other Hawks writers and Hawks fans have seen Millsap get hit in the face on an almost nightly basis, as well as witnessing Millsap receive many other terrible no-calls not befitting of an 11 year NBA veteran and a four-time All-Star. Despite that, I don’t think I’ve ever Paul react the way he reacted in Game 5, certainly as a Hawk. I think that’s very telling.
This no-call with Beal and the one with Gortat with 37 seconds remaining, I believe, are the two no-calls Paul was motioning to the officials about postgame, as if to say “twice you didn’t call a blatant foul”.
I’m not one to look at the officiating in detail like this. I don’t like giving the officials a rough time. They truly have an extremely difficult job in, at times, hostile environments. Anytime an official’s major decision (be it a horrific call or a non-call) has played a major factor in a team winning/losing I’m quick to say that you lose a game not purely because of that but for other reasons (such as turnovers, second chance points etc.), not because of a few calls/no-calls. And I still believe that. However, that being said, the Hawks and Paul Millsap got hosed down the stretch in Game 5. The L2M report will certainly be interesting…
I think it says a lot when John Wall (one free throw attempt) and Millsap (6 free throw attempts) combine for 7 FTA while Otto Porter attempts 10…
“That’s the thing that stands out to me. I keep going to the free throw line and keep seeing 10 free throws for Otto Porter. I genuinely can’t remember how he got to 10 but that’s a big number. You look at John Wall who shoots one free throw. You look at Paul Millsap who shoots six. Both those guys are attacking the basket all the time. That’s a big, big number. That’s how he gets to 17.”
— Coach Mike Budenholzer
But, looking past all of that, the Hawks can be proud of the fight and determination they showed on the road. They were right there, Game 5 was there for the taking. Had the Hawks executed a little better down the stretch and, perhaps, gotten a little of help from the officials and who knows where this series would’ve been at heading back to Atlanta.
“I think we were right there. We had a chance to win. We missed a couple of rebounds. We missed a couple layups, shots. It’s tough. In crunch time we have to make those plays.”
— Dennis Schröder
A horrible loss only for the reason the Hawks are down 2-3, not because of the performance. Even though the Hawks have lost all three games in D.C., they’ve always been close and the games have been there for the taking. There’s more encouragement to be found heading into Game 6 and a possible Game 7: the Hawks have looked a lot closer to winning a road game than the Wizards have.
“All three games here, we’ve given ourselves a chance. We feel like we can play better. We went back (to Atlanta) for Games 3 and 4 and played better. We have to go back and play better in Game 6. That will be the focus. That will be where our mind is. For more of the 48 minutes, we have to be more focused. We have to be the aggressor. We have to take care of the ball. We have to have good possessions. We have to go stronger to the basket. Do all of those things for more of the 48 minutes. We are doing it but tonight credit them. They made more plays than us. We’ll go back to Atlanta for Game 6 and it’s got to be us who is the aggressor and us who makes the plays.”
— Coach Mike Budenholzer
Win or stay home. Can the Hawks force a Game 7?
Dwight and Baze struggle to carryover strong Game 4’s
After having strong Game 4’s, Dwight Howard (16 points in Game 4) and Kent Bazemore (16 points, seven assists) couldn’t carry that positive momentum into Game 5. Dwight looked like the Dwight from Games 1 and 2 (scoring five points in 28 minutes in Game 5) while Baze (six points on 3-of-12 shooting from the field and 0-of-5 from three) looked like the Baze that — unfortunately — we’ve seen for a good chunk of this year.
Most of Bazemore’s shots fell quite short and, at times, he tried to do a little too much on the offensive end. For Dwight, he didn’t look to get himself involved as he did in Game 4 — didn’t have that same aggression. Some noted that Dwight looked quite slow, as if he was injured. The Hawks injury report has given no such indication but I’m sure we’ll find out for definite once the season is over.
Heading into Game 6 — an elimination game — the Hawks will need much, much more from Dwight and Bazemore.
Bench battle goes in Washington’s favor
The bench battle has been key in this series. It’s also one the Hawks have a considerable advantage in, especially key in Game 1’s close game and Game 4’s victory. But Game 5 bench battle went to the Wizards’ bench, who outscored the Hawks’ bench 26-19.
We’ll start with the Hawks.
No one could get into any sort of consistent offensive rhythm off of the Hawks bench. Kent Bazemore, as we mentioned, struggled to follow on his huge Game 4 by scoring six points on 3-of-12 shooting in Game 5. Ersan Ilyasova has struggled for this entire series and did so again in Game 5 — two points on 1-of-6 shooting in just eight minutes. Mike Dunleavy scored five points, Mike Muscala scored four and José Calderón scored two while Thabo Sefolosha continues to — basically — receive DNP-CD’s.
For the Wizards, their bench burden was — almost single handedly — lifted by the 14 points scored by Bojan Bogdanović, who has finally come to life in this series. A 4-of-7 shooting from the field and 2-of-3 from behind the arc Game 5 performance has helped Bogdanović to 38 points in the last three games having combined for 10 points in Games 1 and 2.
This is the one area the Hawks can really press an advantage, the bench is going to have to step up in Game 6 if the Hawks are to stay alive.