The Atlanta Hawks dug a first half deficit that they simply could not emerge from on Friday evening in Game 6. After a valiant effort to come back, the Hawks saw their season end at the hands of the Washington Wizards in a 115-99 loss.
The night began in relatively harmless fashion and the notion that the “NBA is a game of runs” was on full display in the first quarter. Washington began things with a 7-0 run to take a 17-10 lead and it was quickly answered by a 6-0 spurt from Atlanta and (another) 9-0 run from the visiting Wizards. That last burst gave John Wall and company a double-figure lead and that was, in retrospect, the theme of the first half.
The “highlight” of the first quarter was a scuffle between Kent Bazemore and Bradley Beal (on a fast break) that netted four technical fouls across the two teams. Beyond that and the potential implications for the future with members of the Wizards leaving the bench, it was an ugly defensive performance that cost the Hawks.
Washington would reel off an 11-0 run midway through the fourth quarter to claim a 15-point lead after a Taurean Prince-led charge from the Hawks and the Wizards were just getting started. Atlanta would surrender a 19-4 overall run before halftime and, when the dust settled, the Hawks were in a 19-point hole with only 24 minutes to play.
As noted above, it was a defensive issue for the Hawks, who allowed 66 percent shooting and a comical 135 offensive rating to the Wizards. On the flip side, Atlanta’s offense stalled mightily down the stretch of the second quarter and, along with 15 (!) turnovers, that placed the team in an extremely difficult spot.
The Hawks would, to their credit, come out firing in the second half, using runs of 7-0 and 10-0 to slash the margin to single-digits. The lion’s share of that damage came with Dwight Howard off the floor to end the third quarter, as the team played with pace and space to the tune of an 89-82 deficit.
When Kent Bazemore banged home a three with 10:08 left in the game, the roof effectively came off the building and the Hawks trailed by just a four-point margin. However, Atlanta was unable to fully complete the comeback and it was John Wall time.
Washington’s lead guard engineered a 6-0 run to send Atlanta into a nine-point hole with three minutes to go. From there, the ultimate dagger came down in the form of a three-point play at the 2:17 mark, putting the Hawks down by 10 and closing the metaphorical door on the season.
Paul Millsap was tremendous in what could be his final game as Atlanta Hawk, scoring 31 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing out seven assists while playing the entire second half. In support, Dennis Schröder finished with 26 points and 10 assists (with only two turnovers) and he, too, did not come out for the balance of the competitive portion in the second half.
In the end, however, the duo could not do just enough to slow down Wall (who finished with 42 points) and Bradley Beal (31 points) and the Hawks went down swinging in a six-game defeat. There will be time for many questions and a few answers in the coming days but, for now, the 2016-2017 season has come to an end.