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Hawks dominate the glass to move to 3-2 in victory over Wizards

Three on the bounce for the Hawks.

Washington Wizards v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks won their third successive game as they cruised to a 130-121 victory over the Washington Wizards at State Farm Arena on Wednesday night.

Dejounte Murray picked up where he left off on Monday and led the team with 24 points, while Trae Young and De’Andre Hunter each added 23 points. For the Wizards, Kyle Kuzma scored 25 points, Deni Avdija adding 22 points in a fourth quarter flurry.

The Hawks fell behind by double-digits in the second quarter, but even watching the game as it happened you never got the sense of worry against this Wizards team. Sure, Kyle Kuzma was hitting shots but he was one of the only Wizards that was finding fortune and eventually that catches up with a team. That, and the Hawks finally found some fortune inside the paint. Mike Muscala (as much as I enjoy his work) being one of your only centers is a problem, especially when he comes off the floor, and the Hawks found their way in the paint and racked up the points.

Trae Young had it going in the first half and it was easy for him to get to his floater/into the paint.

With Muscala backpedalling, it’s easy for Young to get to his floater here:

Almost a carbon copy on this play where Muscala backpedals and Young steps in and hits the floater:

You can see Muscala’s hesitance to challenge and potentially foul Young or open up a lob, but these occurrences happened anyways, as Muscala decides to contest here but fouls Young on the floater:

Young finished with 24 points and while he shot 5-of-11 in the first half, he finished 7-of-18 from the field but did shoot 8-of-9 from the line to go along with 10 assists, with this pick-out from Young to find Murray for three the standout assist of the night:

“I’m never looking at the guy who’s guarding me,” said Young of the play. “I’m always looking at the help man, the defender behind him. For me, I drove by mine and I saw the help guy come over and another help guy about to take the big man, so for me it’s that next person, I had to be able to through it blindly. That’s the trust I have in my teammates that they’re going to be there.”

Similarly, Young’s running mate Murray also found good fortune at the rim.

From the perimeter, Murray gets by his man and takes it into Muscala and hits the runner:

In transition, Murray skips by his man and, despite the challenge of Corey Kispert at the rim, Murray is able to adjust and finish:

Guarded by Jordan Poole (who Murray exchanged words with on a few possessions last night), Murray blitzes by him on the perimeter, and with Muscala worried about Bey in the corner, in addition to no help anywhere else for the Wizards, it leaves an easy path for Murray at the rim:

Murray turns defense into offense as he slaps the ball free and unleashes a windmill dunk:

Murray had a bit of sauce on his dunks last night, clearly feeling very confident at this point in the season — and why wouldn’t he? After tying his career-high of 41 points against the Timberwolves, Murray followed that up with a team-high 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the field and 3-of-5 from three. The matchup with Poole was one he wanted to win and he did so with ease, Poole scoring 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting.

De’Andre Hunter had a couple of solid moments inside the paint too, contributing with this post-up on Johnny Davis, plus the foul:

Hunter had some good three-pointers last night, but this drive from the wing might have been his best moment offensively as he drives with conviction and gets right into Muscala at the rim, drawing the contact, finishing, plus the foul:

Hunter was great in the second half, scoring 15 of his 23 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field before finishing with 23 points on 8-of-16 shooting.

With Muscala being essentially the only center for the Wizards, the bigs were able to control proceedings inside and this led to a number of second chance points/more points in the paint for the Hawks.

In what was a messy sequence, Saddiq Bey misses the shot inside but Clint Capela is on-hand to clean up and tuck the second chance away, plus the foul:

Fun fact: Capela is 8-of-10 from the free throw line so far this season.

Off of a miss from Bogdan Bogdanovic, the Wizards mistime their rebound attempts, leaving Onyeka Okongwu free to score the tip-in:

Hunter drives inside and misses the layup, but Okongwu is again there to tip in the remnants:

Rinse and repeat, this time Okongwu is there to profit off the miss from Young:

Jalen Johnson also got involved, tipping in the miss from Bogdanovic:

In the end, the Hawks scored 64 points in the paint and 19 second chance points, in addition to shooting 29-of-32 from the free throw line in what was a strangely officiated game at times. The Wizards, in contrast, shot 9-of-14 from the line.

The Hawks built a 20-point lead in the third, and that lead rose to as many as 26 in the fourth quarter. And although the final margin was just nine points, it was in truth a comfortable victory — their third in a row after starting the season 0-2.

But it should have been more comfortable.

The Hawks led by 26 points in the fourth, and with the amount of time remaining on the clock you would have thought the starters would be able to rest, but the Wizards hung around close enough to ensure this didn’t happen. The Hawks took their foot off the gas, were sloppy with the basketball, and committed turnovers. This should never have finished a nine-point game. It was so much more comfortable than that, but you could sense complacency creep in (it happened at the end of the third quarter too) and the Wizards and Avdija (who scored 15 points on 7-of-7 shooting in the fourth) kept battling.

Postgame, Hawks head coach Quin Snyder wasn’t as pleased as he could have been despite the victory, in large part due to how the Hawks played that fourth quarter.

“Well, not to ever diminish winning a game — because it’s hard to win games in this league — I thought we started a little flat and I really liked how we picked it up,” opened Snyder. “The fourth quarter, we didn’t execute the way we wanted to. I think our guys know that. Hopefully that’s something we continue to work on: playing a whole 48 minutes. Washington did a good job of competing and made plays and were able to cut into the lead. Coming off a big win the other night to come out and for the most part of the game have a good effort, other than a couple stretches.”

“We didn’t finish the way we should have tonight,” added Trae Young. “We let them make it a game at the end but we played really good after that first quarter and we’ve got to carry that momentum over and start that way and finish that way.”

The Wizards outscored the Hawks 39-31 in the final frame on 74% shooting from the field to go with six steals (i.e. the Hawks committing six turnovers). The Wizards ramped up their full-court pressure and this in combination with some carelessness from the Hawks kept the door open for longer than it should have.

In the end, the Hawks committed 20 turnovers leading to 25 Washington points, with Snyder believing the Hawks are more than capable of taking care of the ball having seen them in action.

“It was a lack of precision,” said Snyder of the turnovers. “Whether it be how we were spaced at the beginning of the possession, not passing the ball soon enough at times — they were really shifted — and we did a great job of that a number of times where we found guys quickly and trusted each other. The other night we had eight turnovers, that’s something we’re certainly capable of doing but I think late, when they were trapping us, we weren’t strong with the ball and we didn’t give each other outlets and help each other. We’re capable of doing that and I anticipate we’ll continue to be efficient with the ball because we’ve got good handlers and good passers. I just think we got a little lazy.”

Snyder’s critical assessment of last night — despite victory — didn’t stop there. When asked by Brad Rowland of Locked on Hawks about how the Hawks fared against the Wizards’ small-ball lineup, Snyder was honest in his comments on how the Hawks performed defensively.

“I didn’t think we had a great defensive night,” said Snyder. “I think we’ve played in stretches but we haven’t been at the level that we need to be at. We’ve made some plays, we’ve gone on some runs when we have played good defense but there’s too many possessions where we’re not executed, where someone hasn’t shifted in the right place, we’re not running back into our shifts — maybe we’re back but we’re not communicating — our pick-up points aren’t high enough on the ball. It’s everybody. It’s not for lack of care or effort, you’ve got to be persistent and we’ve got to keep grinding. That’s what this league is and that’s what it means to become a solid defensive team. You just can’t take plays off.”

On the surface, it does seem odd to be this, almost, critical after a victory but I personally think Snyder is right. The Hawks didn’t play a great game here, despite victory. They were slow to start and fell behind by double-digits. Then the good stuff came (in combination with the Wizards being very much exposed) and they built that big lead in the third quarter and then got complacent to end the third quarter. Their play became sloppy in the fourth quarter, strewn with errors, lapses and turnovers that meant they couldn’t enjoy the fruits from their labor in the second and third quarters and get some rest after their third game in four nights. It helps that the Hawks are not back in action until Saturday but they should have handled this affair better.

That said, there was plenty to like about what the Hawks did.

The Hawks, again, had seven players in double-digit scoring — only Johnson out of the main-eight of the rotation didn’t score in double-figures. 24 for Murray, 23 for Hunter and Young, 16 for Okongwu, 14 for Bey, 12 for Bogdanovic and 10 for Capela.

“It’s been a lot like that recently, that’s what we need,” said Young of the double-digit scoring. “I like to say ‘everybody eats’ around here, I like to see everybody eating and making plays. It’s great to see. DJ having a rhythm again, Dre making some tough plays, Saddiq making some plays tonight. We’re just going to have to keep it going and keep making plays.”

“My shot still hasn’t fallen yet and we’re still winning games,” Young later added.

Snyder spoke at length of the sacrifice of his team and the unselfishness that he has been pleased to see so far this season, highlighting the Minnesota game in particular.

“I think the big picture I’ve talked about, what we’re trying to on the court you don’t always do it, you hope to get better at it but we’ve been an unselfish team,” said Snyder. “The other night in Milwaukee we had eight guys in double figures. There must have been six different times against Minnesota where the rotation changed, someone came out for two minutes then came back in, someone played beyond their rotation, Trae came out and didn’t go back in third quarter, A.J. came out and played well in the first half and didn’t play in the second half, O finished the game and Clint didn’t, Hunt’s rotation got shaved some, Saddiq and JJ came in for each other and no one missed a beat through the whole thing.

“Bogi more than anyone because Bogi played well when we were making that comeback and because Trae sat the last three minutes of the third quarter, I got him back in. Bogi’s usually in then and then at one point I had Bogi go back in and he was at the scorers table and DJ who’s obviously playing great, I was going to give him the blow and we sat Bogi back down and two minutes later I put him back in. That substance of a group to me gives your team a chance to get better. Not every game is going to be like that obviously but to the extent that illustrates the buy-in that these guys have had for one another and making individual sacrifices for the group.”

Bey was inserted into the starting lineup in place of Johnson, with Snyder alluding after the Milwaukee game that he could change the lineup based on the matchup before speaking prior to last night about making changes.

It would appear as though we can expect to see Bey and Johnson potentially flip-flopping between the starting lineup and the bench, depending on the matchup. Bey was solid last night, 14 points and seven rebounds. You could see moments where he switched off defensively for a second and then switches back on again and gets to where he needs to be, which is an improvement already on his defense last season. Rome isn’t built in a day, after all...

Other positives, the Hawks crushed the Wizards on the glass, 57-35 to go with 14 offensive rebounds — as you might have expected given their roster. Capela, Okongwu Johnson were forces throughout this game on the glass, all three of them grabbing 11 rebounds, Capela and Johnson snatching four offensive rebounds each, with Okongwu taking hold of five.

All in all, it was a fairly comfortable victory for the hosts, even if the game got far closer than it ever should have. Avdija did well for the Wizards in the fourth, but it was telling where the Wizards were when Kuzma scored 25 points through three quarters on decent efficiency and was nowhere to be seen in the fourth quarter. The Hawks didn’t play a top-tier and still coasted to victory, which is saying something because easy victories seemed hard to come by last season. That the Hawks can commit 20 turnovers leading to 25 points and shoot 9-of-32 from three and be considered comfortable victors gives room for optimism. I think the Hawks knew that they were so much better on the night than Washington and didn’t feel an ounce threatened once the lead opened and complacency crept in.

Three on the bounce now for the Hawks, who still rue somewhat dropping their first two games but are pleased with the bounce back.

“It was tough after dropping our first home game, we obviously wish we’d won that and our season opener but the way we bounced back and won these three has been a great sign for us,” said Young.

However, Snyder isn’t getting ahead of anything yet.

“We lost the first two, we’ve won a few in a row now and the sky wasn’t falling when we lost two and we don’t need to be congratulating ourselves for winning three,” said Snyder. “This is a long haul this season and hopefully today in a different way than the other night and in a different way dating back to Charlotte and New York that we want to take these games and try to use them to get better.”

The Hawks (3-2) are back in action on Saturday night when they begin a three-game road trip starting in New Orleans (3-1).

It should be a tasty affair. Until next time...