At an earlier point in the season, a four-point loss in Washington D.C. would have likely served as a strong moral victory for the Atlanta Hawks. In Game 5 of an NBA Playoff series, those don’t exist and the Hawks were unable to close out an upset victory while succumbing to the Wizards in a 103-99 loss.
There was a blazing tempo out of the gate (for a 6:00 pm ET start) and, at least in the early going, that favored Atlanta. The Hawks used an 8-0 run to claim a 21-15 lead and Dennis Schröder converted his first three attempts from beyond the three-point arc. Defensively, Atlanta held John Wall scoreless in the first quarter and, aside from allowing 11 points to Bradley Beal, it was a strong effort on that end.
To begin the second, the Hawks rattled off a 9-4 run punctuated by a Tim Hardaway Jr. three and that forced a timeout from Washington with the score sitting at 34-27. After the hiatus, though, the Wizards awakened to the tune of a 13-2 run that gave the home team a four-point lead. It was a back and forth affair until halftime, with Washington leading by a 50-49 margin, but the early fortune from the visitors largely vanished.
Schröder was the offensive story of the first 24 minutes, scoring 16 points (including 4 of 4 from three) and dishing out four assists. As a team, the Hawks committed eight turnovers and shot only 41 percent from the floor, but it was the point guard’s shotmaking that kept Atlanta afloat in concert with reasonable defensive effort.
After the half, things threatened to go sideways for the visiting team, with Otto Porter knocking down back to back threes to key a 10-2 run from Washington. In fact, the Wizards quickly took an 11-point lead within the first five minutes of the third quarter and that sent Mike Budenholzer scrambling into a timeout.
With haste, things flipped back after that break, with a 11-0 run that included two threes from Tim Hardaway Jr. as Atlanta climbed back into a tie at 69-69. The Wizards did then escape again with an eight-point cushion later in the quarter but the Hawks did a reasonable job of staying within striking distance after three quarters.
The Hawks would, again, fall behind by a considerable margin, as Kelly Oubre streaked to the rim unimpeded for a dunk to place Atlanta in a nine-point hole. On cue, the underdogs rebounded with six straight points and Paul Millsap produced a bucket to send the game into a timeout near the six-minute mark with a 94-91 score.
After Washington stretched things back to 98-91, Markieff Morris came to Atlanta’s aid. The hot-and-cold power forward fouled Paul Millsap on a loose ball and, seconds later, picked up a technical foul to provide a strange three-point play. Then, after a miss from Beal, Taurean Prince leaked out for a fast break dunk and it was suddenly a two-point game again with less than three minutes remaining.
Beal then connected on a jumper out of a timeout and Prince came up empty on a driving attempt at the rim to keep the Hawks in a four-point hole. Marcin Gortat made just 1 of 2 free throws on the other end with 1:56 to play and Millsap wasn’t granted a call on the other end. However, the Hawks then got a stop that led to a Dennis Schröder three and there was real life in a two-point deficit with 1:09 remaining.
The grim reaper would arrive, though, as Wall knocked down a 21-footer to make it a two-possession game with 47.5 seconds on the clock. Quickly, the Hawks called timeout to set up a crucial possession, but Millsap was unable to convert (in the midst of a curious no-call) and that was, effectively, the end of the game. The final 20 seconds were a whirlwind of ineptitude and the result was a four-point loss.
Dennis Schröder (29 points, 11 assists) was excellent and Paul Millsap (21 points, 11 rebounds) did Paul Millsap things. In the end, though, the defense was not good enough and the Hawks left many open shots on the table. Game 6 will be on Friday at Philips Arena and Atlanta will battle against elimination. Stay tuned.