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Hawks escape with 125-124 victory over Wizards

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Washington Wizards v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks enjoyed a long, three-day weekend of rest and practice time, eventually taking the floor again in game action on Monday evening at State Farm Arena. On a night headlined by the return of De’Andre Hunter from an extended injury absence, the Hawks faced an opponent in the Washington Wizards that was also seeking an important victory for their playoff chances. Though Atlanta built a 19-point lead in the second half, the Hawks needed to hold on for dear life, eventually prevailing by a final score of 125-124 for the team’s 38th win of the season.

Atlanta took an 8-2 lead out of the gate, with Washington missing five of their first six shots. Once the Wizards awakened, the rest of the first half unfolded in back-and-forth fashion and with a surprisingly fast pace.

For the Hawks, the No. 1 event was the return of Hunter, who scored six points in nine minutes during his first stint on the floor since March 24.

The Hawks shot 60 percent in the first quarter to take a two-point lead, but they were not terribly effective defensively. To begin the second period, Clint Capela set the tone with an aggressive, physical dunk, blowing through Robin Lopez on the way to the rim.

The Wizards answered with an 8-0 run, though, taking a lead they would hold for the remainder of the half. Offense wasn’t the issue for the Hawks, with highlight plays from John Collins and Bogdan Bogdanovic.

The offense wasn’t as dynamic as it could have been, however, as the Hawks committed 10 turnovers in the first 24 minutes. Atlanta’s 54 percent shooting did enough to keep the team’s efficiency at a solid level, but the defense struggled, giving up 28 points in the paint and 51 percent shooting overall to the Wizards. That combination led to a one-point halftime deficit, even after 15 points (on eight shots) from Collins in the first half.

The second half opened in improved fashion, with the Hawks scoring six points on the first two possessions to take the lead. Later, Atlanta put together an extended run of dominance behind Young and Collins, seemingly putting a stranglehold on the Wizards.

It was a 17-2 overall spurt to give the Hawks a 15-point lead at 88-73, and the Wizards scored only two points in almost five minutes. Collins anchored the defense with two blocks, and Young was electric offensively, scoring 16 points in the third quarter alone.

When the Hawks scored the final eight points of the third period, they were in a commanding position, and Atlanta led 100-81 with 11 minutes to go in the game. Then, things flipped with haste, as the Wizards scored nine straight points and put together a 21-3 overall spurt to turn a 19-point lead into just a one-point edge.

Mercifully, the onslaught slowed, as Atlanta’s starters were able to restore order after the bench suffered the severe hiccup. Washington didn’t relent, though, as Davis Bertans caught fire, converting three consecutive three-pointers to slash the margin to 117-115 with 3:32 remaining.

Nothing was comfortable from that point forward, as the Wizards had multiple opportunities to steal the game from the Hawks. That extended to the final sequence of the game, when the Hawks were stopped — on what appeared to be an uncalled foul against Collins — and Russell Westbrook had the chance to win the game. He pulled up for a three-pointer that went begging, however, spoiling a night in which he made NBA history by setting the league’s all-time record for triple-doubles with 182.

For the Hawks, it was a night in which they did not play their “A” game, but managed to win anyway. It was a solid offensive performance from the Hawks, with the team scoring more than its season average on a per-possession basis.

Young finished with a game-high 36 points to go along with nine assists and six rebounds. Collins produced 28 points and eight rebounds, with Bogdanovic adding 25 points and Capela putting up 10 points, 22 rebounds and four blocked shots.

However, Atlanta’s defense left plenty to be desired. In addition to Westbrook’s individual effort, the Wizards converted 51 percent of their shots, including 50 percent from three-point range, and Washington racked up 28 assists.

The Hawks will face the Wizards again on Wednesday in Atlanta before hosting the Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets to close the regular season.

Stay tuned.