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Hawks rally late but unable to overcome deficit in loss to Wizards

They came close, but no dice for the Hawks on the road.

Atlanta Hawks v Washington Wizards Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks returned to action after a lengthy break from play with a road contest against the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena on Friday night but were unable to return to winning ways, falling 118-112 to their fellow Southeast Division opponent.

Playing without Trae Young — who missed this game to flu-like symptoms — the Hawks put up a valiant effort and were led in scoring by Cam Reddish’s 28 points, marking a new season — and, by extension, career — high for the rookie.

John Collins added 26 points and 10 rebounds in 29 minutes, limited by foul trouble in the first half.

For the Washington Wizards, Bradley Beal poured out 35 points as six Wizards notched double-digit scoring, with Davis Bertans adding 17 points.

As always, if you missed out on this game, you can catch up here.

Fast-forwarding to the fourth quarter, the Hawks entered the period down 18, and with a lot to do. They began the quarter on the right note, slicing the Wizards’ lead with an 8-0 run (part of a 10-3 run to begin the quarter) and the Wizards promptly inserted Bradley Beal and while this stabilized the Wizards for a few minutes but could not stop the Hawks from reeling off a 13-2 run to cut the lead to five points with 2:46 remaining.

With 1:28 remaining, the Hawks had cut the lead to four points after a Reddish free throw, leaving plenty of time on the clock to further dig into that lead should they come up with a stop.

However, a stop isn’t complete until you secure the defensive rebound, and the Hawks struggled to secure the defensive glass down the stretch.

Collins rotates on the Bradley Beal’s drive and does a good job challenging the shot at the rim, contributing to the miss. However, with Collins in the air and recovering from the challenge on Beal, it means someone else has to rebound the miss. Kevin Huerter comes agonizingly close, but Rui Hachimura is able to prize away the offensive rebound. His put-back is missed but Washington’s rookie is able to get another hand in and help come up with the jump-ball, tied up with De’Andre Hunter.

The Wizards win the jump-ball and Troy Brown Jr. — late in the shot clock — sheds Reddish for an open shot opportunity, misses it, but again the Hawks struggle to collect the defensive rebound. Hachimura, again, grabs the offensive rebound amidst the crowd and draws the foul and free throws:

Hachimura proceeds to knock both down to bring the Wizards’ lead back to six points with 51 seconds remaining, and this seemed to take the wind out of the Hawks’ sails. They had gotten the misses they needed from the Wizards but could not secure the defensive rebound on two occasions, down four. That’s a tough one to take if you’re the Hawks, who obviously struggle to get stops.

Had the Hawks come up with the rebound, trailing by four points with multiple possessions remaining, who knows how this game ends, but trailing by six points, the Hawks were always up against it.

It was a valiant effort by the road team, obviously playing without their best player in Young, but this game was not lost on two offensive rebounds from the Wizards.

The Hawks entered the fourth quarter with an 18-point deficit, something had obviously gone seriously wrong somewhere, and it began with how the Hawks ended the second quarter, a quarter they ended poorly.

Turnovers and points off of turnovers (more so Washington turnovers and Atlanta points off of turnovers) were a big story in this game but to end the second quarter it was the Hawks’ turnovers that cost them — four turnovers inside the final 2:19.

It starts with a misunderstanding between Huerter and Hunter, as Hunter expects Huerter to remain in the corner:

Even if Huerter had remained where he was, I’m not sure he would’ve reached that — it was a poor pass.

As Reddish handles on this possession, Jerome Robinson is able to poke the ball-away as the secondary defender:

Reddish, again, commits a turnover on the drive and, this time, it was his own doing as he looses the handle. The Wizards come the other way with Beal, who is fouled and makes the resulting two free throws:

To wrap up the quarter, Jeff Teague has the ball poked away by Bradley Beal, the off-ball defender, and again the Hawks have lost an opportunity to score as the second quarter expires:

The Wizards may not have scored off of all of these turnovers, but that’s one shot that’s being taken away from the Hawks’ total and one being added to the Wizards’ total. That adds up.

The Wizards ended the second quarter on a 13-2 run, overturning what happen an Atlanta lead into a seven point Atlanta hole at halftime — that’ll happen when you limit your shot opportunities by turning the ball over.

The start of the third quarter was... not ideal for the Hawks either.

When the Wizards opened that seven-point lead, that was the largest lead of either team in the first half in what was an entertaining, quick, back-and-forth affair. However, after Hachimura split a pair of free throws and a Hawks miss, Beal is allowed to step into an easy three-pointer to establish the first double-digit lead of the night by either team. That prompted Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce to take an early (and needed) timeout.

I think Hunter has to take blame for this one, a lapse of concentration (and getting stuck behind Dewayne Dedmon didn’t help).

The Wizards would quickly run that lead up to 13, then, 15 points (all part of an extended run of 25-4, extending from the end of the second quarter) and that’s where it stayed for the majority of the third quarter, in a 15 point range. This threatened to get to 20 points near the end of the third quarter, and fouling Davis Bertans twice on three-point shots does not help as Bertans added four quick points from the free throw line.

Again, the Hawks did not end the quarter well.

First, Reddish commits the offensive foul on the drive to the rim:

Next, Reddish is forced to rotate onto Mo Wagner at the rim, leading to a foul and free throws (pushing the Wizards’ lead to 18 points):

And to wrap up a difficult 10 in-game seconds, Reddish commits the traveling turnover:

This game wasn’t lost on a lack of rebounding down the stretch (though, it didn’t help) but those three key stretches: the end of the second quarter, the beginning of the third quarter and the end of the third quarter.

The Hawks did well to mount an unlikely comeback but left themselves with far too much to do in 12 minutes.

“We battled back,” said Huerter postgame via Fox Sports Southeast. “Fourth quarter, we switched up the defense a bit ... dug ourselves a hole too early in the game, too many turnovers early. Can’t expect to come back all the time from stuff like that.”

Despite that, Pierce was satisfied with the effort and energy from his squad on the road, believing his side always had a chance in this game.

“Fun basketball game. I thought our guys competed at a really high level tonight,” said Pierce via Fox Sports Southeast. “It was good to see an energetic group, trying to throw different looks at them defensively. Just the ball movement, the activity and the ball movement. The pop and bounce our guys had tonight was tremendous.”

“Early turnovers in the second quarter was the separation, obviously late in the game there was some offensive rebounds they get — that was a big offensive rebound by Rui — lack of discipline on the free throw boxout with Bertans were the crucial things that come to mind right now,” Pierce said. “Not a lack of effort by our guys, not a lack of aggression by our guys. I never thought we were out of the game.

The game was a much-needed departure from Monday’s bludgeoning against the Memphis Grizzlies. Four days between games will help — and the Hawks obviously welcomed back Dewayne Dedmon and Reddish after their absences — but the Hawks responded in the right way, with the right energy.

“We did have some time off just to recover and get some bodies back but the energy was the question for one game, and it was more the offensive energy,” said Pierce via Fox Sports Southeast. “I thought the guys were tremendous tonight. With the energy, I thought the guys were tremendous with being in attack mode offensively, and just trying to throw a bunch of different looks at them defensively ... I thought our guys came with a different bounce tonight.”

He’s featured prominently so far for some of the wrong reasons, but Reddish is worth talking about in a positive light after what he was able to do against Washington.

In some ways, it was an odd game for the rookie from Duke. In one sense, he was great: 11-of-17 shooting and 5-of-7 from behind the arc — he came in and made shots. He posted a season/career-high with 28 points, shouldering the Hawks’ scoring output on a night when they badly needed it. At the same time, he wasn’t perfect in other spots, especially with a career-high seven turnovers, and some bad turnovers too.

This missed dunk, for instance was a great reflection of his game as he does well to grab the steal, anticipating the pass, gets to the rim, rises, but blows the dunk:

There’s an important distinction to make (and this goes for all players): just because you shoot the ball well doesn’t mean you have a perfect game. The opposite is also true: just because you shoot the ball poorly doesn’t mean you have a bad game.

For Reddish, it was a bit of a mixed game, though ultimately you would obviously lean toward a (very) good game given the efficient shooting and scoring output, to go along with his always strong wing defense. Yes, he scored 28 points and that was fantastic. Five threes, fantastic. Reddish made shots, and made a lot of them, but you can’t just brush seven turnovers under the rug, especially on a night where seven turnovers was double of any other member of the Hawks.

The Hawks were incredibly fortunate that the Wizards could not make the Hawks pay. Both teams ended up with 18 turnovers on the game. The difference? The Hawks scored 28 points off of those turnovers, the Wizards scored eight. On a different night, Reddish isn’t so lucky to get away with those seven turnovers as he did (though, we’ve looked at a few in key stretches where the game did get away from the Hawks).

That’s why it was a somewhat mixed game for Reddish. This is not to say his game was bad. Don’t hear what I’m not saying because, well, he was still quite good. But there are more aspects to a great game than shooting, and this is a theme that I know I, and many others, often said when Trae Young struggled from the field in his rookie season during some games, but would still have double-double assists and/or free throws.

“...Cam obviously came in almost too aggressive with the seven turnovers but to set a career-high (in points) and have a career-high in turnovers just showed his aggression,” said Pierce of Reddish via Fox Sports Southeast. “He was just looking to make plays. No fault of his, he was in attack mode right from the start...”

With the notion of “attack mode” as the backdrop, it is fun to relive Reddish’s offensive explosion, with high-end shotmaking throughout the game.

Speaking further of Reddish, with that showing from behind the arc last night, his three-point percentage vaulted up to 33% on the season. For reference, fellow rookie De’Andre Hunter is shooting 35% from three on the season. Since Jan. 1, Hunter is shooting 36% (consistent if nothing else) while Reddish is shooting 40% from distance. Just interesting to compare, obviously given the nature of Reddish’s season where he couldn’t buy a three, or a shot for that matter. How wild would it be if Reddish were to overtake his teammate in three-point percentage, given everything that has happened?

Someone who would fall into the category of ‘Not a great shooting night, but a good offensive game’ was Huerter.

Huerter scored 14 points on 6-of-14 shooting and 2-of-8 from three but racked up a career-high 11 assists to go with just one turnover. For someone who isn’t a point guard, that’s hugely impressive.

“It’s a big part of my game,” said Huerter postgame via Fox Sports Southeast. “Had the ball in my hands a little bit more today, was just trying to find guys, make the right pass and get the ball moving.”

According to Pierce, however, Huerter’s impact on this game came from a defensive standpoint, from a leadership standpoint — not just passing.

“...Kevin really took on a leadership role tonight,” said Pierce via Fox Sports Southeast. “Just communicating all our coverages, communicating to the other guys...”

“His leadership is getting better,” Pierce would go on to say via Fox Sports Southeast. “He had to play some point guard, we had to put the ball in his hands a little bit more than normal. He’s always been a willing passer. We put him in some situations where not only is he looking for his shot but he’s able to make plays for other guys. That was a reflection of him stepping up in that role.”

“As a team, we’ve got to pick it up,” said Huerter postgame via Fox Sports Southeast. “It can’t be just one guy. We’ve been saying it all year, we just need more guys being louder. We’ve to to hear everyone’s voice. Not always just one guy. We’ve got to start with one guy but everybody in general has to talk more...”

In the absence of Young, Huerter did a great job facilitating the ball but Young’s absence was noted in one particular area of this game: free throws.

The Hawks may have been able to outscore the Wizards comprehensively when it came to turnover points, but the Wizards crushed the Hawks when it came to free throws: shooting 31-of-35 to the Hawks’ 8-of-12.

“We really missed Trae, in that regard,” said Pierce of Young (who averages 9.3 free attempts per game) via Sarah Spencer of the AJC. “He’s been our leader all year getting to the free-throw line and putting them in some predicaments, and they did a tremendous job of doing that ... I go back to the free-throw box-out, which is the key when Bertans ends up shooting six free throws in one stretch. And then Rui with that free throw at the end, gets them a couple of free throws. That was the area Trae has been tremendous and we didn’t get to the foul-line as much.”

All in all, the Hawks played a pretty good game but obviously sunk themselves in spots and left themselves too much to do in the fourth quarter. They gave it a great effort, but the hole was too deep.

I think Huerter put it best (again, via Fox Sports Southeast).

“With Trae out, we’re missing a big piece of our team,” Huerter said. “Different guys have to step up, and I thought a lot of guys did for the most part. This was a game we still could’ve won at the end if we made a couple of plays early and didn’t dig ourselves a hole. Could’ve been different.”

The challenge for the Hawks (19-45) comes tonight, the second night of a back-to-back — and the opportunity for revenge — against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedEx Forum.

The Grizzlies are also on the second night of a back-to-back, having fallen on the road in Dallas last night.

Should be interesting.

Until next time...