When word broke that the Atlanta Hawks would rest the entire starting five in Washington on Sunday evening, expectations were low in terms of the actual outcome of the game. On the bright side, the Hawks fought back strongly in the second half, but the output wasn't quite enough to secure a victory, as the club instead fell by a 108-99 margin to the Wizards.
Washington zoomed to a double-digit lead in a hurry to begin the first quarter, and they never looked back. The Wizards shot a blistering 7 for 11 (64%) from three-point distance in the first quarter, and that allowed Washington to build a 16-point lead after 12 minutes. From an individual perspective, Atlanta had no answer for John Wall (13 points, 6 assists in the quarter) and Paul Pierce (11 points in the quarter), and the defense was an issue.
Offensively, things weren't terribly ugly for the Hawks, who shot 45% in the opening quarter, but that went downhill in the second quarter. In fact, Atlanta struggled to just 37% before the halftime break, and only solid contributions from Mike Scott (11 points) and John Jenkins (9 points, 4-6 FG) kept things from flying totally off the rails. On the bright side, the Wizards didn't make a three in the second quarter, but they continued to shoot better than 50% and with Atlanta's offense subsiding (8 for 26 in the second period), the margin grew to 21 points at the break.
The second half did prove to be much better for the team from Atlanta, but it took a while. Washington built a lead of as many as 25 points in the third quarter before the Hawks responded, but that response was swift. All in all, Mike Budenholzer's club managed to slash the lead to single digits (!) in the fourth quarter, and for a brief moment around the 5-minute mark, the game was somewhat in doubt.
Sadly, that late push wasn't quite enough, as the Hawks fell by a 9-point margin, but it was still positive to see the bench battling to the end. John Jenkins scored a season-high 17 points while playing a team-high 35 minutes in the game, while Mike Scott (19 points), Shelvin Mack (14 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds) and Dennis Schröder (14 points, 6 rebounds) also finished with productive stat lines.
It wasn't the most aesthetically pleasing product, but the Atlanta Hawks managed to compete respectably against the first team of the Washington Wizards without their top five players. That's a win at this stage of the season.
The Hawks will return to action on Monday night, as they host the New York Knicks at Philips Arena. Stay tuned.