The Atlanta Hawks were given repeated opportunities to “steal” Game 2 on the road against the Washington Wizards. Despite those chances, the No. 5 seed fell into an 0-2 hole with a 109-101 loss and the Hawks now return home with their backs firmly against the proverbial wall.
The night began with the Hawks getting off to a strong start and a 6-2 lead but that positive mojo faded quickly. In fact, the Wizards wrestled it away to the tune of a 14-0 run in response and Marcin Gortat provided the energy for the home team with three blocked shots.
Atlanta would come back with a (very) slow 15-6 run that included some ugly basketball and that would be enough to give the Hawks a first-quarter lead. In short, it was a “successful” quarter in that the Hawks mucked things up to the tune of 16 combined fouls and 18 combined three throws but it certainly was not a viewer’s choice period.
The second quarter was more of the same and Washington’s 9-2 run at the outset provided cushion. The Hawks were never able to full close that gap on the way to an eight-point halftime deficit and Atlanta’s offense scuffled to the tune of 36 percent shooting and 0-for-8 from beyond the three-point arc. In addition, that three-point impotence marked the first time all season that the Hawks failed to knock down a three during a full half.
On the more positive side, the underdogs held Washington to only a 100.9 offensive rating before halftime and that included 28 combined points from John Wall and Bradley Beal. Dennis Schröder led the way for Atlanta with 15 points in his own right but, given that the Hawks accomplished their goals in terms of style of play, the eight-point margin was mildly disconcerting.
The third quarter, unequivocally, was better for the Hawks and it began with Washington’s trio of Markieff Morris, Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre picking up a fourth foul each within the first four minutes. With that shortened lineup on the floor for the opposition, the Hawks were able to make a run, slashing the lead to two in a hurry as Paul Millsap got loose against Jason Smith.
From there, Atlanta extended the run to 13-0 to take a 74-67 lead and it was keyed by Millsap (14 points in the first eight minutes of the quarter) and Dennis Schröder. The Wizards slowed things down by leveling the playing field the rest of the quarter, but the Hawks took the advantage to the fourth quarter.
Seemingly on cue, though, the home team awakened. Brandon Jennings knocked down three jumpers to key a bench run and Washington used an 8-0 run to reclaim the lead at 86-84 with less than eight minutes remaining. The Hawks then grabbed the advantage back before Washington (despite two missed free throws) used a 6-0 run to seize control for good.
The Hawks trailed by just three points with two minutes to go but Tim Hardaway Jr. came up empty on a driving lay-up attempt. From there, Atlanta got the stop it needed (even with an offensive rebound from the Wizards) but Kent Bazemore then turned the ball over and that hiccup was converted into a John Wall dunk to give the home team a 103-98 lead with 1:05 remaining.
After a timeout, Hardaway Jr. again missed and the dagger came in the form of a Bradley Beal three to 106-98. While the Hawks battled for the better part of 48 minutes, there was a distinct lack of execution down the stretch and, even on a night in which Atlanta attempted 38 free throws and the Wizards encountered massive foul trouble, Mike Budenholzer’s team was unable to take advantage.
In terms of individual performances, Paul Millsap led the way with 27 points and 10 rebounds, while Dennis Schröder contributed 23 points and six assists. It was a rough showing from Tim Hardaway Jr. (5-14 FG, four turnovers, ghastly defense) and there was also a distinct lack of playing time from Dwight Howard, who sat for the entirety of the fourth quarter on the way to only 20 minutes.
The Hawks and Wizards will get together again for Game 3 on Saturday evening in Atlanta and, needless to say, it will be a must-win spot for the home team. Stay tuned.