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Hawks conclude marathon journey with thrilling win in Washington

What a way to finish the trip.

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

The Atlanta Hawks closed their seven game road-trip with a thrilling 134-129 victory over the Washington Wizards on Monday night at Capital One Center.

Taurean Prince led the very high scoring effort with 21 points (including 12 in the final period) as nine (!!) Hawks scored in double digits.

For the Wizards, three players scored 25 or more points with Bradley Beal leading the way with 27 points.

Going to the wire to end the trip

This was a wild game in D.C. so, as always, if you missed the game live, check the recap — it’s a great place to start.

What a wild game.

The Hawks trailed 0-6 to start this game but Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce decided not to call a timeout and his Hawks side really responded, going on a 35-14 from that point to the end of the first quarter. Instead, it was the Wizards head coach Scott Brooks who was forced into taking two first quarter timeouts, unhappy with the performance of his team in the first quarter.

It didn’t get better in the second quarter for the Wizards — who looked incredibly flat — as the Hawks tore away to a 19-point lead (leading to some people prematurely calling game, but we won’t talk about that). But they soon dug into that lead in a big way with a 17-3 run, cutting the Hawks lead to just four points at the half.

But this run wasn’t a turning point for the Hawks dropping this game, going on another run in the third quarter and extending their lead to 18 points in the third quarter and a 10-point lead by the end of the third quarter.

Bradley Beal — who had scored nine points on 4-of-12 shooting and was struggling with foul trouble — went off in the fourth quarter for 18 points as the Wizards came back at the Hawks and it ended up coming down the final minute and a half after a Bradley Beal three-pointer cut it to just four points.

It was the second lead of at least 18 points that the Hawks had given up in the game and you wondered how the Hawks would respond and how the young core would close the game against players who have ‘been there’ before and been around for a while, like your Beal’s, Jeff Green, Trevor Ariza and Otto Porter.

O.K., Hawks up four with a minute and a half left, on the road, last game of the trip — what’s the response?

Well, not a great one because the Hawks almost end up with a fruitless trip with five seconds left on the shotclock with the ball in the hands of Taurean Prince and being face-guarded by Jordan McRae, leaving Prince to hoist up a contested shot at the end of the clock and it ends up banking in:

Spectacular way to extend the lead back to seven to give the Hawks breathing space.

The Wizards cut it to five with a Beal dunk and then came arguably one of the plays of the game that would seal the Hawks’ win.

Trae Young is faced with a ton of ball-pressure and probes his way around to find a way to find a route of the double-team, he eventually finds Kevin Huerter, who makes the great pass to the corner where Prince is wide open and drains the three to seal the game:

Even though there were 33 seconds remaining after that shot, the Wizards gave up very quickly after Beal missed the three heading the other way, and the Hawks picked up a well deserved victory in Washington.

The game also wrapped up the Hawks’ seven-game, Superbowl road-trip and the Hawks ended up finishing 4-3, picking up victories in Chicago, L.A., Phoenix and Washington. Even 3-4 would’ve been considered a successful road-trip for the Hawks but to go positive on the trip — and the first encounter for many young players of what it means to be on the road for a week and a half/two weeks — is very impressive.

A great win for the Hawks given the circumstances (that I haven’t mentioned yet because I want to give them the attention they deserve rather just a mention in passing) and a lot of things went well for them.

Let’s talk about them.

Three-point shooting

A huge factor in this game was the Hawks’ three-point shooting — they knocked down 20 three-pointers in this game, their second-highest output of the season from long-range.

We’ve looked at a few Taurean Prince three-pointers — he hit five threes — Kevin Huerter also hit five threes while Omari Spellman and Vince Carter hit four apiece.

There’s an opportunity to talk about Omari Spellman later, so let’s start with Vince Carter — because that’s where Lloyd Pierce began in his opening comments postgame.

Carter didn’t play in the first half and was called upon in the second half after an injury to John Collins (more on that later) meant the Hawks needed to dip into their bench in the second half.

And Carter did not disappoint.

In the space of just a few minutes, this game turned into the ‘Vince Carter show’ as the 42 year old ignited from three-point range, hitting three threes and scoring 11 points in a five minute stretch.

The Wizards crowd was excited to see Carter enter the game but had no idea what was in store for them — and, even though they are the opposition, I think many enjoyed Carter going off too.

“...I think the fans here started rooting for Vince regardless of who they were rooting for,” said Pierce postgame via Fox Sports Southeast.

We’ll look at Vince’s third quarter triples, because why not. They were fun.

Carter gets going after Trae Young delivers a beautiful left-handed pass to Carter in the corner and Carter hits the three:

On his second three, Carter shows no hesitation after he receives the ball from Alex Len and hits the contested three-pointer:

And to close off his third quarter explosion, Carter gets the jump on Tomas Satoransky, receives the ball and rises into the three-pointer as Satoransky tries to close out but to no avail:

Carter’s appearance in the third quarter was brief enough but made a significant impact in that time. He finished with 16 points and four three-pointers in 15 minutes and was the focus of Pierce’s postgame comments.

“I just want to talk about Vince. That’s the highlight of my night,” opened Pierce postgame. “16 points, fifteen minutes, four-for-six from three, sat on the bench the whole first half, John Collins goes down and he comes in and continues to amaze. What a performance. He gave us the spark we needed — a lot of guys did — but I think it’s always encouraging when you see Vince lead the pack and re-energize the group that could’ve easily fallen apart on a seven-game trip after the run they made at the end of the second quarter. Kudos to Vince and what he was able to do for us.”

Kevin Huerter enjoyed a homecoming of sorts (he played two years with the Maryland Terrapins) and enjoyed a great night with 19 points and five three-pointers with his former teammates in the building watching him. Huerter had been struggling from three in January at times but over his last three games, Huerter is shooting 55% from three on nearly seven attempts per game.

“He’s a young talent that, as his confidence grows, the game becomes easier, becomes slower,” said Pierce of Huerter. “He knows he can shoot and the confidence that he has when he has the basketball, shooting the basketball — it just grows every time one goes in. He’s shooting over 38% from three, he’s shooting them all with confidence, he’s starting to shoot them with guys crowding him and in his face ... good to see him do it in front of his former teammates and fans.”

Pierce mentioned how Huerter is starting to shoot more threes with defenders close to him, and there was a good example of this last night in the first half from the corner, where Trevor Ariza is right there and Huerter just pulls up and hits the three:

Here’s another, as Huerter hits the three — late clock — with Beal right with him in the corner:

You love to see it from Huerter, just the confidence to rise and just keep shooting — it’s something the coaching staff have appeared to aggressively empower Huerter to do.

And why not, when he’s shooting 39% from three on the season.

Another note to make about the Hawks’ three-point shooting — it was obviously so important in the grand context in this game.

The Hawks outscored the Wizards 60-36 from distance but a theme developed in the game when where the Hawks were hitting a lot of threes in a quarter, they’d pull away in that quarter. When they weren’t, Washington closed in.

First quarter, the Hawks hit six threes and create a 15-point margin. In the second quarter, they hit only one three-pointer and the Wizards went on their run to turn a game spiralling out of control into an actual game. In the third quarter, they hit 18 threes and pulled out a lead as high as 18 in the third period. In the fourth, the Hawks initially struggled from three and this helped Washington get back into the fray but two big three-pointers from Taurean Prince ensured the Hawks would not let two 18-point leads slip.

John Collins’ injury

Coming off of a 35-point performance against the Phoenix Suns, John Collins looked as though he could maybe do it again as he carried into the locker-room a first half double-double — 15 points and 11 rebounds.

But he also carried into the locker-room a cut above his right eye, suffered from the flailing elbow of Trevor Ariza on a drive to the rim:

Collins was subsequently ruled out of the second half with a laceration and while the injury wasn’t anything serious but Lloyd Pierce and the Hawks erred on the side of caution and held him out of the second half.

“We saw the cut and there’s a risk of bringing him back out with the right cut above his eye and the guys, we all went in there (the locker-room at halftime) and told him we’d try and get one for him,” said Pierce of Collins’ injury. “He was in good spirits, he knows it was just a cut, just too risky to come back in.

“I’m most disappointed because he had 15 and 11 at the half and was off to an unbelievable performance. I wanted to see him follow up what he was able to do in Phoenix. But that’s just what happens sometimes, things happen like that and it’s opportunities for others to step up.”

Omari Spellman started the second half in Collins’ place but was already enjoying a great game before Collins went down, scoring 10 points in the first half.

Though he replaced Collins in the lineup, it was more so Dewayne Dedmon more so than Spellman who picked up the primary roles that Collins performs — rebounding, screening and shooting — in the second half.

But that’s not to take away from Spellman, who scored 16 points on the game and seemed to be on his way to a career-high — tallying those 16 points by the early stages of the third quarter — but it wasn’t to be.

Still, a great night for Spellman who contributed to the Hawks’ stellar three-point shooting with four threes.

“He’s a guy, the reason we drafted him is he’s a big that can stretch the floor,” said Pierce of Spellman. “We have a bunch of guys that are out there who can stretch the floor — you’re going to get a lot of open looks, a lot of uncontested looks and to see the first one go in always helps. For a young guy like Omari, starting to find his rhythm ... he got his first one to go down and his confidence just grows from there. It’s encouraging to see.”

Spellman had a double-double on the game, adding 10 rebounds to those 16 points. He also had two assists on the game, including this beautiful pass to a cutting Huerter:

That’s a thing of beauty, and Spellman showing flashes of passing is really encouraging for the Hawks and it also highlights the skill-set of the Hawks’ three first round picks — they can all shoot, dribble and pass.

As for Collins heading forward, I would find it hard to imagine he’ll miss any game-time but we’ll find out...

The Hawks (18-35) return home to begin a seven-game homestand — with nine of their next 10 games being played at State Farm Arena — and it kicks off on Thursday night against the Toronto Raptors.

Should be fun.

Until next time...