Hawks vs. Wizards — Things of Note

Graham Chapple —  January 28, 2017

Annie Finberg/NBAE/Getty Images

In one of the most important games of the season, the Atlanta Hawks laid an egg at Philips Arena as they were run out of their own building by the Washington Wizards, falling 112-86 to their division rivals. All five of the Washington starters scored in double digits, led by Otto Porter’s 21 points.

Horrible loss

This was such an important game for the Hawks. The Wizards sat 1.5 games behind the Hawks prior to this game and the season series was tied at 1-1. The winner of this game would be in the drivers seat for the tiebreaker and it’s possible that these two teams will finish the season with similar records, giving the owner of the tiebreaker a huge advantage in terms of playoff seeding. And for the Hawks to lay the egg that they did in this game…unbelievable.

The Wizards flew out of the gates here, an 8-1 start to this game quickly forced Bud into a timeout. But this did little to rattle the Wizards, who scored 37 first quarter points on 56% shooting while the Hawks scored 25 points on 38% shooting. The Wizards did shoot the ball well but the Hawks were poor defensively, their energy and effort lacking.

“Thirty-seven points. I think that’s poor defense. I would add too. I think somebody shooting it well should be at maybe 25, 28, 30 points. But a 37-point quarter out of the gate is just too much. So I think they did shoot it well and weren’t aggressive enough, and we weren’t there, and there was no presence defensively.” — Coach Mike Budenholzer

The Wizards extended their lead in the second quarter and took a 22 point lead into the half. This was the fourth time this season that the Hawks had trailed by 20 or more points at halftime… Yikes.

“We can’t come out like that. We have to be better. It starts with me. I’ve got to set the tone. I’ll take that.

“We’ve done that a few times this season, down by 20. We can’t have games like that. If we are losing, we have to lose with pride. But not by 30 or 40.” — Dennis Schröder

During that second quarter the Hawks committed some very poor turnovers eventually committing eight turnovers leading to 12 Washington points. And a lot of those were just careless turnovers: easily telegraphed passes were picked off, passing into traffic and travelling calls. In the end the Hawks committed more turnovers (19) than they produced assists (18). The ball wasn’t moving well last night and there were quite a few poor shot selections too.

When the Hawks have trailed by 20 or more points in the past, they’ve always showed some sort of fight and effort in the second half. While they may not always complete the comeback and win the game, they would at least show effort would slice into their opponents’ lead somewhat. But not last night. The Hawks never cut the Washington lead to under 20 points in the second half, the Wiz having led by 22 points at halftime.

“Some nights you don’t play well. We didn’t play well tonight but I think to not have a more competitive effort, to not have a better focus and competitiveness, it’s a bad combination to play poorly and to not compete at the level of your opponent.” — Coach Mike Budenholzer

What was worrying was how easily the Wizards were able to get to their spots, to get any shot they wanted. The Hawks didn’t offer any resistance.

“We didn’t give them any resistance. They could go where they wanted to go, shoot whenever they wanted to shoot. I think it’s more on us. We have to focus on ourselves and figure it out.” — Paul Millsap

Despite everything the Hawks didn’t do/show, the Wizards deserve a ton of credit. They were, by a thousand miles, the better team last night and deserved to win by at least 30 points. They were better in every single way. Marcin Gortat completely outplayed Dwight Howard, Otto Porter annihilated his matchup, they shot the ball wall and John Wall did a great job setting up his teammates.

“They beat us in every facet of the game. They’ve been playing well and we didn’t do anything to change that tonight. So a lot of credit to Washington…” — Coach Mike Budenholzer

Starters struggle

This was not a good night for the Hawks’ starters. They Wizards starting unit outscored the Hawks’ starting unit 85-42. Kent Bazemore (the only Hawk that had a, somewhat, good game) led with 15 points and Dwight Howard was the only other starter to score in double-digits with 12 points. Dennis Schröder scored nine points on 3-of-11 shooting, freshly named All-Star, Paul Millsap, scored a season low four points on 1-of-7 shooting and Thabo Sefolosha scored two points on 0-of-2 shooting from the field (2-of-2 from the free throw line).

“Our starters have to do better getting off to good starts and setting the tone for the rest of the game.” — Paul Millsap

I wouldn’t mind seeing a change to this starting lineup with the idea of adding more energy to the starting unit to start games. This starting unit has gotten down by double-digits often in the first quarter this season, they’re prone to starting slow/flat. The Hawks should consider inserting someone with a little more energy (someone like a Taurean Prince, who you can bet is eager to play and prove himself) into the starting lineup. Energy is contagious. When someone else is excited, it rubs off. The starting unit could use a bit of this.

(Side note, Prince should be playing some minutes, whether it’s starting or off the bench, he has to play more)

So, either make a change or get onto the starters to get on with it and be ready to rock from the get-go. This team plays great when they’re trailing but why does it take until then for the Hawks to wake up and play? I cast my mind back to the urgency, effort and focus the Hawks came out of that timeout in Chicago on Wednesday night, trailing by 10 with just three minutes remaining. Their purpose was so clear, you could see the urgency and effort so vividly. Kent Bazemore even said postgame that if the Hawks could play like that more often, they’d be a great team. And then to come out as they did yesterday… Very disappointing.

The Moose returns

Following a six, but basically seven, game absence with an ankle injury, Mike Muscala made his return to the court. Moose scored eight points on 3-of-5 shooting in 14 minutes before leaving the game in the fourth quarter to get some stitches to mend a cut on his chin. His chinny chin chin.

An eventful return for Moose but it’s great to see him back on the court.

Coaches honor Goldberg

Earlier this week, longtime NBCA (National Basketball Coaches Assosciation) executive Michael Goldberg sadly passed away. He was an inspiration to so many coaches and, in his honor, coaches from both sides wore bowties as Goldberg famously did.

Personally, I think this suits Bud quite a bit.

Honoring the Falcons

The Hawks promised a “one of a kind” ceremony at pregame (eventually moved to half time) honouring the Atlanta Falcons. Dwight Howard got things started, donning a Julio Jones jersey during the starting lineup announcements.

Harry the Hawk was also visited by a special friend, Falcons mascot Freddie the Falcon.

It didn’t take Freddie long to fit in with the Philips crowd:

The Hawks then honored the Falcons at halftime:

Now, I didn’t see this live and this is the only video I can find of the Falcons at halftime…so what was so “one of a kind” about this? Maybe I’m missing something…

Up next

The Hawks (27-20) are back in action on Sunday, they’ll take on the New York Knicks — for the final time this season — at Philips Arena. Thabo Sefolosha has been listed as “out” with a left groin injury.

Game stats: NBA.com
Hawks quotes: The AJC via Chris Vivlamore
More Hawks quotes: Peachtree Hoops via Kris Willis

Graham Chapple

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