Both the Washington Wizards and the Atlanta Hawks entered their Saturday night match up with their own versions of adversity. The Wizards would play without their All-Star point guard John Wall. The Hawks were playing their fourth game in six nights although the only road game they have had in their last 8 games was Friday night’s loss in Charlotte. In the end, the Wizards had one of their best shooting performances of the season and secured a 125-104 victory. In the back-to-back losses, the Hawks have given up 125 point or more in consecutive games for the first time this season.
The Wizards scored 27 points or more in all four quarters. The Hawks 27 point second quarter would be their best offensive quarter in the game. The Wizards shot better than 55% from the field overall and from the 3-point line and shot better than 90% at the free throw line. To put the Wizards offensive performance in perspective, per basketballreference.com, it’s only the 48th time since 1983-84 season a team has shot at those percentages while putting up 120 points or more. To put that further in perspective, entering play on Saturday night, there have been 37,928 games since the beginning of the 1983 NBA season, so it’s extremely rare.
Here is the Wizards shot chart from the game:
That’s a whole lot of green.
Former Hawks reserve forward Make Scott had a shooting performance that at times was reminiscent of his performance during a 2014 first round playoff game between the Hawks and the Indiana Pacers. He converted a season high four shots from three point range and scored 19 points in 23 minutes of action.
The Wizards shot 18 of 32 from the three point line and seven different players hit at least one three point shot. Markieff Morris lead all scorers with 23 points on 9 of 12 from the field and 4 of 5 from the three point line.
As has been the norm for the season, the Hawks deployed two big defenders throughout the game and Wizards playmakers were able to draw Morris’ defenders away from him and he knocked down the open shots he got as a result. Timeouts, adjustments and the like were not able to result in Morris and Scott, who manned the power forward position for the Wizards for most of the game, from getting those open looks.
Here are a few looks at how the Wizards were using dribble penetration and other actions to threaten the paint to get open three point attempts for Morris and Scott.
Bradley Beal dribbles across the baseline from one side of the paint to the other to draw defensive attention which creates the perimeter shot for Morris.
Both Dedmon and Collins race to protect the paint as Tim Frazier pushes the pace which creates another open perimeter shot.
Frazier and Scott operate in the pick and pop which results in another open perimeter shot.
The Wizards are able to get both Ilyasova and Collins into the paint which creates another good look from the perimeter.
The Hawks were on the receiving end of a lot of the performances put up by the Al Horford and Paul Millsap led teams of the first three seasons of the Mike Budenholzer era. While Morris and Scott have never played at an all-star level, the way the Wizards were able to produce scoring from their front court players, especially with perimeter shooting, was reminiscent of how those Hawks teams played throughout those three season.
The Wizards amassed 40 assists that led to 49 made field goals which was also a defining characteristic of those Hawks teams, especially the 60 win team of the 2014-15 season during which they were second in the league in assist rate. The Hawks best single game assist total during that season was 38 in a road victory over the Sacramento Kings. Coincidentally (or maybe not) the Hawks best assist mark of this season was in their November victory over the Kings in which the Hawks set a franchise record for margin of victory.
Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer had common points of emphasis after another ugly loss during a challenging season. He gave credit to the other team and looked for a few positives from which to take from this game. “Credit to Washington,” he said. “They were the more aggressive team. They were better than us in every facet of the game.”
On the Wizards producing points through the power forward position Budenholzer said, “When your power forwards are making 4 of 5 and 3 of 6, so 7 of 11 all from the four spot that creates a lot of pressure on any team’s defense.”
The positive was focused on Atlanta’s bench play. “There have been lots of nights the bench has been good for us,” said Budenholzer. “It feels like Musky is starting to get into a rhythm and playing well. Malcolm back playing a lot of back up point guard. He organizes us well.
“Marco I thought passed the ball really well, he’s our best passer,” he added. “Dewayne it was nice to see him hit some shots and score. John’s been consistent all year when he’s played off of the bench. And Dorsey, he’s getting more minutes and playing well. It’s good for those guys to get those reps, those opportunities.”
Tyler Dorsey and Dewayne Dedmon both had 14 points playing off of the bench. They along with Taurean Prince led the team in scoring. Three of the five Hawks players that scored in double digits in the game were reserves. Mike Muscala had ten points. Ersan Ilyasova joined Prince as the other starter to hit double digits. He had 12 points including his first made three point attempt in his last five games.
Dorsey, who has gotten regular play in the Hawks rotation for the last nine games, had a chance to play the point guard position during the closing stretch of the fourth quarter. “Through my whole career I’ve been playing combo guard, on and off the ball,” Dorsey said. “I’m used to playing on the ball if called. Tonight I got some run on the ball and I was comfortable. I know the plays at that position, so it was nothing nerve racking for me.”
In 21 minutes of play, Dorsey had four assists and no turnovers. His 14 points came on shooting 3 of 6 from the field including 2 of 5 on three point attempts and 6 of 7 from the free throw line.
On getting consistent playing time, Dorsey said, “Settling in and knowing when I’m going to get in, at certain times of the game. I’m just trying to take my opportunity when it comes and slowly just building off every game and staying consistent.”
On this play, Dorsey pushes the pace and gets an solid shot at the rim. Perimeters shooters who also have to be respected for their ability to attack the rim with dribble penetration are valuable players in the modern NBA.
Being able to hit three point shots off of the dribble is also one of the most valuable skills in the modern NBA. This is encouraging play from the Hawks rookie guard.
This is another nice, confident shot early in the shot clock from Dorsey.
On this play, Dorsey looks very comfortable creating in the pick and roll with Muscla.
John Collins continues to hit his corner three point attempts. He hit his only attempt from the corner in the game. His only miss from beyond the arc was on a 42-foot heave at the end of the third quarter. He has now his four of his last five three point attempts apart from the noted heave.
This play and the result has become very familiar over the last week or so.
Taurean Prince has now hit 8 of 19 three point attempts in his last four games which follows a rough four game stretch during which his offensive production fell off significantly. He has been dealing with an injured finger on his shooting hand but looked more confident again shooting the ball in this game.
When Prince is visibly asking for the pass it’s a sign that he is confident in his ability to make the perimeter shot.
He communicates for the pass on this play as well.
Wizards head coach Scott Brooks sounded both relieved, to get the win, and frustrated, that his team does not play this way more consistently, after seeing his team get just their second win in the last game of a six game road trip. “We just have to keep doing it,” he said. “We can’t keep talking about it. This is how we play when we have a good game. And then when we don’t have a good game talk about this is how we want to play. So now we have to play consistent. Whether we win or lose we just have to play with that same spirit as we played with tonight.
The Wizards ended play Saturday night in the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference standings with a record of 27-22. But they are one game away from both the fourth spot and the eighth spot in a tight group in the standings among six teams, including the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are separated by just three games in spots three through eight.
The Hawks will next be in action on Monday in a home game versus former Hawks’ point guard Jeff Teague and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Minnesota has won 8 of their last 12 games. Only Golden State, Houston and Boston have more wins than the Timberwolves on the season.