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Hawks keep ticking as Wizards run out of gas for second straight win

Hey! The Hawks won another game!

NBA: Washington Wizards at Atlanta Hawks Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks notched their second consecutive victory — marking the first time they’ve done so this season — as they topped a division rival, the Washington Wizards, 113-99 at Philips Arena.

Dennis Schröder led the Hawks’ scoring effort with 21 points while Ersan Ilyasova added 20 points.

For the Wizards, Bradley Beal led the way with 20 points on 19 shots while Markieff Morris added 18 points.

Pulling away in the fourth

The Hawks came into this game having had a nice rest, their last game coming on the 23rd of December: before Christmas, basically. The Wizards, meanwhile, were in action on Christmas Day so their legs were a little heavier than the Hawks’.

While this didn’t stop the Wizards from running out to a quick ten-point lead in the first quarter, you could really see it take effect in the fourth quarter as the Wizards began to slip away when it mattered.

After teetering with a six-to-eight-point lead, the Hawks delivered the finishing blow behind a 15-3 run to take an 18 point lead, putting the Wiz away for good.

You could tell the Wizards weren’t feeling great, I genuinely think they were feeling a bit heavy. Shots like this, for example, seem to suggest the Wiz didn’t have the legs to finish this one out the way they would’ve wanted:

The Wiz got desperate for something, anything to help get them back in this game, so they actually intentionally fouled Miles Plumlee and sent him to the free throw line. It didn’t work, as Plumlee shot 3-of-4 from the line in the fourth quarter.

The Hawks, to their credit, stuck with it despite being down early and — though they didn’t play especially great at times — came up with plays on both sides of the floor to pull through for their first back-to-back victories of the season.

“Good win for us coming off three days without a game,” said Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer. “You’re worried after the holidays. We had a couple stretches where we had great looks, great opportunities, couldn’t score. We kept getting enough stops. It might’ve been both teams … went through some dry spells. Then we were able to kind of break out of it, keep moving the ball... A good win. Defense came through in the second half for us.”

“The energy on both ends tonight was pretty good,” Budenholzer continued. “A lot of guys were locked in. Wall and Beal are so good. I think they bring out the best in, at least your effort. They’re still super hard to contain. I thought the effort on the defensive end, and then I thought that energy and effort carried over. Guys were driving and attacking. Dennis passed the ball really well. He picked his spots to score, and he found Ersan there in the corner; that was a huge play. It was just both ends coming together well in the second half.”

The players, meanwhile, put this win down to ‘experience’: the fact that they’ve been in similar situations (close game in the fourth quarter) often this season helped them tuck this one away.

“It was experience,” said Ersan Ilyasova. “We’ve been in many, many games in these situations. It all comes with defensive stops. When you play against a team like Washington, Bradley Beal and John Wall get in transition. We just tried to get back in front of them. I think we did a really good job just being in front of them for 48 minutes. We had some (droughts) offensively in the second half, but we knew our defensive effort could step up. We just started making shots.”

“It feels great (to win two in a row),” said Taurean Prince postgame. “Going through this process, you learn to cherish the wins and appreciate the wins more. You take it when they come, and continue on.”

“Experience (helped us get the win),” Prince went on to say. “Just being in that situation so many times. Just finally finding what we needed to find to overcome it.”

Again, the Wizards weren’t great — and neither were the Hawks, to be fair — but the Hawks found a way to get the job done against a team that was expected to come into Philips Arena and beat them fairly handily. The Hawks deserve credit for this win, they made plays when it mattered while the Wizards ran out of gas.

Bench effort

You could make the argument the Hawks would not have won this game without the huge play of their bench, particularly John Collins and Marco Belinelli.

Let’s start with Collins: eight points, eight rebounds, two assists, three blocks and a plus/minus rating of plus-18 in 23 minutes.

Again, Collins continues to bring the energy and make the energy plays. Here he is busting a gut, running the floor, and he’s rewarded with an ally-oop pass for the big dunk:

But it was those three blocks that really stand out.

After blocking the drive of Bradley Beal, the Hawks break in transition, Collins among them. After Taylor’s drive misses, the Hawks grab the offensive rebound, miss again but Collins is there to cleanup and beat the third quarter buzzer to put the Hawks up by two points, a huge play that shifted the momentum and set the tone for the fourth quarter.

Marco Belinelli was also huge in this one: 19 points — 11 coming in the first half — on 7-of-11 shooting.

Belinelli caught the Wizards napping on multiple occasions, leading to layups at the rim.

First, John Wall:

And then Kelly Oubre:

And then took Oubre to school for another layup:

Belinelli also hit two three-pointers and registered a game-high plus-22 on the game.

Wizards head coach, Scott Brooks, believed Marco could’ve ended up with a lot more than 19 points...

“Belinelli came in and lit us up,” said Brooks. (He) scored nine quick points. (Coach Budenholzer) does a favor by taking him out in the second quarter. (Belinelli) probably would have had 30 tonight.”

Malcolm Delaney was part of the rotation in this game and he played pretty well: seven points, two assists and a career-high three steals while also being assigned the defensive assignment of Bradley Beal when he came on.

Beal — while not always guarded by Delaney — shot just 7-of-19 from the field.

Delaney was also called upon by Budenholzer to play down the stretch, and he was a plus-21 in just under 19 minutes.

“...The better I play, the more trust trust he’ll have in my game,” Delaney said after the Thunder game (a game where he posted a career-high 20 points).

That certainly seems to have been the case, as Delaney is back in the rotation, and Budenholzer has really liked what Delaney has done of late after spending a large amount of time out of the rotation.

“...I think Malcolm has been a nice infusion into the lineup and helping us, just brings us some toughness,” said Budenholzer of Delaney.

All in all, the coach was pretty happy with his bench.

“I thought our bench in both halves was huge,” said Budenholzer. “Marco Belinelli, Malcolm Delaney and Isaiah Taylor, and Cavanaugh and John Collins, they gave us a big boost when they came in in the first quarter... that bench group had been so good in the first half and then they did it again in the third quarter. They were able to get us a lead and a little bit of momentum, just positive energy. It seemed like it helped propel us.”

The efforts from Collins, Belinelli and Delaney really helped the Hawks pull this win out.

A very disappointing John Wall and a hyped Dennis Schröder

John Wall vs. Dennis Schröder has provided a lot of storylines and entertainment over the past few years, especially in the playoffs (these two sides have met each other twice in the past three seasons in the playoffs, 2015 and 2017) — the two clearly don’t like each other.

With John Wall coming into Philips, you would’ve thought he would’ve wanted to make a statement in ‘Schröder’s house’ as such — it was the first time Wall has come back to Philips Arena since he walked away with the clinching Game 6 victory last April.

Dennis delivered on his side, he had a pretty decent game, but Wall didn’t — 10 points on 3-of-9 shooting and 11 assists.

It was worth noting that Wall isn’t long removed from a knee injury, and I think it’s fair to say he isn’t 100 percent yet. Even still, against Dennis Schröder — a guy, I think it’s fair to say, he really doesn’t like — you would’ve thought he would’ve taken it to him and the Hawks a bit more and he just didn’t look to really do that.

But Dennis Schröder isn’t going to care, he’s still going to bring it when John Wall comes to town.

Dennis always bounces with a little extra spring in his step when he’s playing the Washington Wizards and Wall, and was even playing some good defense in the fourth quarter vs. Wall:

This is pretty good pick-and-roll defense, it has to be said.

Dennis was pretty hyped when he got this stop and the Hawks got the ball back:

All this was good, but this was in the fourth quarter, and it didn’t stop Dennis playing poor defense in the first half, but I’ll give him credit for actually trying defensively for some part of this game.

Just wish it happened a bit more often, and not just when fellow countryman and icon Dirk Nowitzki and nemesis John Wall are in town...

The Bazemore-Plumlee connection

One thing that has steadily been emerging is the link-up play of Kent Bazemore and Miles Plumlee — three of Plumlee’s four made field goals in this game were assisted by Bazemore and three of Bazemore’s seven assists were to Plumlee.

Not all of these were handed on platters for Plumlee, as the big man showed a deft touch to reverse two layups. Here was one of them:

For the season, Plumlee has been assisted by Bazemore on nine occasions, while Dennis Schröder has assisted Plumlee on six occasions.

This little connection between Bazemore and Plumlee isn’t anything massive but it’s worth noting.

The return of Mike Scott

This not only marked the Wizards’ first visit to Philips Arena this season, but also that of former Hawk Mike Scott — he didn’t get the opportunity to do with the Phoenix Suns last season, waived just before the Suns visited Philips Arena — who signed with the Wizards in the off-season.

Scott received a video tribute for his efforts over his five seasons in Atlanta:

A man of many memories (including that completely bonkers Game 5 vs. Indiana in the 2014 playoffs) and, of course, a man of many emojis...

For the game, Scott was relatively quiet, scoring six points in 18 minutes.

Bembry and Babbitt frozen out again

Once again, DeAndre’ Bembry was a DNP-CD, marking the second straight game Bembry has not played in.

The first game riding the pine wasn’t entirely surprising given how poor Bembry was against the Oklahoma City Thunder but a second game? Maybe a little surprising.

After the game, Bembry was assigned to the Hawks’ NBA G League affiliate, the Erie Bayhawks.

Luke Babbitt, meanwhile, hasn’t played in three straight games.

It’s interesting that neither player was called upon despite the blowout situation late on in this game. But this is nothing new in the NBA nor anything new under Budenholzer: players go through stretches like this.

The Hawks (9-25) are back in action on Friday when they’ll take on the Toronto Raptors in Toronto on the first night of a back-to-back, before heading to back home for a Saturday matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Should be fun. Stay tuned.