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Hawks close strong in 103-97 upset victory over Wizards

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An impressive showing, even with help from the home team.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Washington Wizards Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks entered Friday night’s game in the nation’s capital as double-digit underdogs to the John Wall-less Washington Wizards. Someone forgot to tell the visitors, though, as Mike Budenholzer’s team fought valiantly for 48 minutes and emerged with a 103-97 victory.

The game opened with ugly, borderline unwatchable play on both sides and that was oddly reinforced by Wizards forward Markieff Morris being ejected at the 4:11 mark of the first quarter. Washington shot just 35 percent in the first quarter but held a one-point lead after Atlanta shot just 38 percent in their own right.

However, things turned on a bit in the second period and the Hawks were the impetus for the turnaround. The visitors scored 13 straight points to claim a 38-28 lead and pushed the margin to as many as 11 points later in the quarter. The Wizards did score the final seven points of the half to close the gap to four but, on the whole, Atlanta’s first half showing was encouraging, especially with John Collins (10 points, eight rebounds) playing high-level basketball.

Despite the apparent momentum shift, the Hawks wouldn’t be going away quietly. The Wizards tied the game early in the third quarter but Atlanta responded by pushing the margin back to ten points with inspired play. From there, though, Washington closed the quarter on a 10-4 run to assert some level of control and the fourth quarter opened with just a four-point cushion for the Hawks.

The closing period was a back-and-forth affair, with the Hawks leading until the 7:09 mark, when Bradley Beal connected on a three to spur a 7-0 run. Washington looked to be in command at that point but, moments later, Mike Muscala knocked down a corner three to give Atlanta the lead back with just 2:05 on the clock.

With some help from a Washington team that failed to score for almost five minutes of clock time, the Hawks were able to secure the victory from there. The Wizards (finally) broke their cold snap (after 12 straight from Atlanta) with 43.8 seconds to go but it was too late at that point and the Hawks held on for the six-point win.

The Hawks were led by Taurean Prince (23 points, five assists and four rebounds) and Tyler Dorsey (22 points on 14 shots) offensively, with significant contributions up front from John Collins (10 points, 10 rebounds, five assists) and Dewayne Dedmon (12 points, 14 rebounds). All told, the Wizards certainly were active participants in the end result but Atlanta’s efforts shouldn’t go unnoticed.

Atlanta will take on Boston on Sunday afternoon before returning home for the season finale on Tuesday evening. Stay tuned.