John Collins was one of seven Hawks players in double-digits, leading the way with 20 points and 13 rebounds. Trae Young also added 19 points on an efficient 5-of-11 shooting and 3-of-6 from three.
The Wizards were led by Bradley Beal’s 29 points while Trevor Ariza added 19 points on his second Wizards debut.
In what was a competitive game from the off, the Hawks — having fallen behind by 10 and 20 points in first quarters often this season — got themselves off to a great start with a 12-0 run on the Wizards, flipping the form book on its head.
If there was a team where the Hawks could start sharply against, it is the Washington Wizards, who are also prone to slow starts like the Hawks, who underestimated the Hawks from the off.
“...We thought it was going to be an easy game and they whooped us. Plain and simple,” said Wizards All-Star guard Bradley Beal.
The Hawks looked sharp in their movement in the opening quarter, clearly buoyed by being back home at State Farm after a tough road trip. And this pleased Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce (the Hawks’ start ended up being one of the focal points in the postgame comments).
“It’s a very simple game when you start the game not down 20 (points),” said Pierce postgame. “I thought our guys did a great job of coming out and having the right approach and the right mentality. The spirit was good - obviously, you see the ball going in the basket. I thought our guys competed on the defensive end; after what we went through in Brooklyn, the response and the resiliency to come out and just put in effort-- put in serious effort-- defensively out there against a team that played really well and got us pretty good last time we were here.”
The Hawks coming out of the gates and giving themselves a double-digit lead right out of the gate made a huge difference for them last night. Not having to chase teams and expound energy coming down from a double-digit deficit made a huge difference in the grand scheme of this game. We’ve seen the Hawks fall down big, rally, make a comeback but run out of gas before they can complete it. No such luck last night in that department.
“...Our starting unit did a great job in the first six minutes,” said Jeremy Lin postgame. “That’s something we’ve talked about. They came out and built us a massive lead. It changed the course of the game, it changed the rhythm of the game — you’re not playing from behind and you’re able to control the game...”
“We’re having a big emphasis on starting the game, and we did a really good job tonight coming out strong to begin the game...” said rookie Trae Young.
After that hot start, the Wizards did respond but this was a game dominated by whistles and fouls... The Hawks and Wizards combined for 62 fouls committed and attempted 75 free throws in a game that lasted two hours and 29 minutes in total. The foul trouble was an issue for both teams (more so for the Wizards) — John Wall, Markieff Morris, John Collins and Alex Len were some examples, especially in the first half where seven players had three fouls.
Free throws were obviously a key aspect in this game.
Early on, it was the Wizards who were getting to the line often, 17 attempts in the first quarter and attempted 36 free throws but only made 25 of them for 69%. But it was in the third quarter where the Hawks began to make up the free throw difference — shooting 17 free throws to Washington’s four in the third quarter.
The Hawks found themselves in the bonus very early on in the third quarter and the mindset after that was ‘attack’.
“That was a point of emphasis, once we got in the bonus: to keep attacking and not settling,” said Pierce on his side being in the bonus. “I thought our guys, our guards specifically, got into the paint, collapsed their defense and we were able to make plays behind it.”
“We gave them confidence; we gave them confidence in the third quarter by fouling them and putting them on the free throw line,” said Wizards head coach Scott Brooks. “They got a lot of points at the free throw line and when you do that, the basket becomes bigger and they start making shots and it’s hard to turn guys off. When the water is flowing it is hard to turn it off, but it all starts with the defense and in the third quarter and we put them on the free throw line too many times.”
Despite committing 23 turnovers leading to 30 Washington points, the Hawks and Wizards were tied at 82 apiece and then the Jeremy Lin show began.
After scoring just four points and 0-of-4 from the field in the first three quarters (it wasn’t a great game for Lin up until the fourth), Lin scored 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field as he picked apart the Wizards in the final period as the Hawks built up a five point lead, then an seven point lead, then a 10 point lead and then a 13 point lead that sealed the Wizards’ fate, leaving Washington with too much work to do in the final six minutes. Though they did cut the lead to back to seven points, it was too little, too late for the Wizards.
The majority of Lin’s work in the fourth quarter was done at the rim, with a lack of rim protection for the Wizards to deter him from driving to the rim.
We won’t go through all of his layups but we’ll definitely look at a few...
John Wall, at times, has his defense criticized and here, Lin easily drives by the All-Star for the layup at the rim:
On a switch this time on Morris, Lin manages to squeeze himself through the crowd — with help from Dewayne Dedmon — and scores the left-handed layup:
A screen from Dedmon forces another switch on Morris and Lin does a great job getting by Morris, powering his way through to the rim for the basket:
Lin had one basket that wasn’t a layup in the fourth quarter and what a basket it was as Lin puts on a dribble clinic and hits the jumper:
Lin also came up with a highlight defensive play as he raced back to get in front of John Wall to get the spot and take the charge:
When you look at the speed and the time and ground that Lin has to actually cover, this is a seriously impressive play.
And, quite rightly, for his fourth quarter exploits, Lin was a large focus postgame.
“He just found a rhythm,” said Pierce of Lin. “They were a little confused on their coverage and he was able to get into the paint and get to his layups ... once he got in rhythm, we’ve seen it before, you kind of just milk it. He got going for us. I told the guys at the end of the bench ‘I was trying to sub some of you guys’ but we had a great rhythm, Jeremy led us and we wanted to finish with the guys that were out there.”
“Huge,” said John Collins of Lin. “I didn’t know he was going to pull all those tricks out of his bag tonight. But we definitely appreciated everything he gave us. He just gave us that spark to help us finish out the game.”
“That’s Linsanity,” said Trae Young of Lin’s fourth quarter. “J Lin does so many good things for us. A lot of things that don’t even happen on the court, as far as a leader and a vet. I think it all trickles down ... he’s been through a lot of injuries and fighting back. I’ve seen all the hard work he’s put in to get back in and play this game. You can see the passion. I’m very excited and happy for a guy like J Lin and a person like J Lin.”
Lin himself didn’t want this night to be about him but was happy with how the team rallied around each other.
“I don’t want to make this game about me and what I did in the fourth quarter...”
“The thing that stuck out to me tonight was our camaraderie,” said Lin of the game. “I really enjoyed that. I really enjoyed our team just rooting for each other and the excitement that we had and the unselfishness that we had. That’s why we sign up for team sports. That’s everything.”
Lin clearly didn’t want to take the plaudits or make it about himself but he deserved those plaudits. Yes, he was not great through three quarters but when it came down to it and the game was still tight in the fourth quarter, Lin was a huge part of the run that created separation for the Hawks and led the Hawks to this victory down the stretch.
Had foul trouble not been a factor in this game, perhaps the Wizards could’ve strung something together, but when it came down to it they entered the fourth quarter on equal terms. The Hawks rode the Lin-train and the Wizards had no reply.
The Hawks (7-23) are back in action on Friday when they take on the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Always an interesting fixture.
Should be fun. Until next time...