Trae Young led the way with 26 points and 10 assists with De’Andre Hunter adding 20 points. For the Wizards, Jared Butler scored a team-high of 13 points, with Kyle Kuzma, Daniel Gafford, and Landry Shamet all adding 12 points.
The 2-13 Wizards — on the second night of a back-to-back — were always going to be up against it, and that was before Jordan Poole was ruled out late with ankle soreness. The Hawks initially got out to a quick double-digit but the Wizards initially showed resilience and twice pegged back the Hawks from a double-digit hole, but never took a lead.
The Hawks established their lead to end the first half and a quick start to the third quarter put them up by 20 points. The game quickly unraveled for the hosts as the Hawks outscored the Wizards 37-20 in the third quarter before extending the gap to as large as 36 points prior to the bench being cleared.
In the first half in particular, the Hawks did well to get at the Wizards in transition, and they had a significant advantage in this area of the court, outscoring the Wizards 13-0 in the first half in fastbreak points.
Off of a miss from the Wizards, Dejounte Murray pushes in transition and gets to the rim for the basket:
Again, Murray takes advantage of the Wizards in the open court as he gets all the way to the rim and draws the foul and free throws:
The Hawks turn defense to transition offense as Johnson pokes the ball free from Deni Avdija and Johnson finishes at the other end:
A poor pass from Kuzma gives Saddiq Bey a runout in transition, an outlet for offense which would prove convenient as Bey shot 0-of-4 from three last night:
Following another turnover, the Hawks attack again in transition with Murray, who finds Bey on the baseline, who in turn finds Capela in the lane and the extra pass from Bey opens an easy basket for Capela:
The fastbreak points trailed off in the second half (five of their 18 coming in the second half), but their second chance scoring prevalent in these two sides’ last meeting came to the fore, 12 of the Hawks’ 19 second chance points coming in the second half. The Hawks were able to snatch 17 offensive rebounds and, as a result, 14 more shot attempts (102-88). Washington shooting 2-of-16 from three in the second half (compared to the Hawks’ 9-of-16) was also a big split in the second half as this one fell away from the Wizards in a hurry.
In the end, the Hawks got a chance to clear their bench and featured a first Atlanta outing for Patty Mills, playing just under five minutes of action and hitting a three.
With a team builds as large of a lead as the Hawks building did it can be easy to let the foot off the gas and a team can sneak back into a game, or a 25 point lead drop down to 12 by the end, but the Hawks maintained a 30 (or higher) point lead until the very final moment of the game.
Hawks head coach Quin Snyder was pleased that the Hawks maintained their focus. “When you play well enough to get a lead, often times you lose focus and we didn’t do that tonight,” said Snyder.
As comfortable as it was of a victory, Snyder was under no illusions as to get too far ahead of himself in terms of the big picture level of play but was pleased with the overall play last night.
“I try not to read too much into any one game as far as how to project but you’re grateful for every time you get a chance to come out and play, and play together and play hard and I thought we did both of those things,” Snyder said.
“I think we were really efficient offensively,” Snyder would go on to elaborate. “We took care of the ball, and in doing that gave ourselves a chance to defend. They do such a good job of transition, I thought we got back (in transition). We had some breakdowns early, particularly in some of our shifts in pick-and-roll but I thought our guys are at a point where they’re starting to recognize what we did wrong, and that’s important because it gives you a chance to do it correctly the next time.”
The turnovers were an extremely positive story for the Hawks. Having committed 20 turnovers in their last meeting, the Hawks (through three relevant quarters) committed just four turnovers on the game — eventually ending with nine turnovers — to give the Hawks a 9-to-20 split in terms of turnovers and scored 27 points off of Washington turnovers.
“I think that’s a function of a couple of things,” said Snyder of the turnovers. “One, I think our awareness and valuing each possession but it also reflects, collectively, on how we’re running offense. Things like our spacing, guys really playing together and executing, and sometimes making simple plays as you trust each other. That can be the case. We have some guys who are capable of making tough plays too. You’re going to have those as well but to the extent that offensively we’re playing five guys and moving it and being smart and precise, I think that’s the result.”
However, as much as the Hawks should be pleased with this (albeit, expected) victory, it is unfortunately stained with an injury to Jalen Johnson in the second quarter. Going for a dunk in transition, Johnson was fouled by Kuzma and landed hard on his left wrist:
Johnson would stay in the game to shoot the free throws (although, one-handed) after the play was ruled a common foul on the floor.
“He made a play on the ball,” said Snyder on why the play wasn’t reviewed for a flagrant. “Any play where someone takes a fall the way Jalen did is just unfortunate, and hopefully he’ll be OK. We’ll find out more tonight and tomorrow.”
Johnson would return to the bench but did appear to have a cast or heavy wrapping underneath his apparel and it’s safe to assume Johnson won’t feature in the Celtics game on Sunday, but what comes after that? The Hawks can only hope any Johnson absence isn’t prolonged...
It is an unfortunate dampener on the game, a game where Trae Young toyed with the Wizards at times with his passing and his shooting: 26 points on 9-of-17 shooting from the field and 5-of-8 from three to go with 10 assists. De’Andre Hunter (20 points on 7-of-11 shooting) and Bogdan Bogdanovic (15 points on 6-of-9 shooting) both enjoyed very efficient nights, while Clint Capela 12 points and 11 rebounds doesn’t tell the full story as to his impact on last night’s game (seven offensive rebounds does do a little more justice). Even Dejounte Murray’s 4-of-14 game can be forgiven in this spot for his 10 assists (six of which came in the first quarter alone) and his aggression in transition giving the Wizards all sorts of problems in the first half.
All in all, a straightforward victory for the Hawks in a spot they would have been expected to take care of business, and to their credit they did. And only for a couple of spells during the first half where the Wizards came back briefly did they seem to ease up, but this was simply a professional victory for the Atlanta Hawks. The big test comes on Sunday...
Speaking of which, the Hawks (8-7) are back in action tonight against the Boston Celtics (12-4) at T.D. Garden.
Should be a fascinating encounter.
Until next time...