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Wizards play hard but lose to Hawks by four

After a blowout loss to the Magic on Thursday, it was hard to know what type of effort the Wizards would give against the Atlanta Hawks. While this was far from a perfect game, the Wizards effort was much better in this game. However, the Wizards inexperience, lack of bench production and a poor second quarter ultimately did them in.

Early in the game, largely behind strong performances by John Wall and Al Thornton, the Wizards were able to get out to an early 11 point lead. Poor shooting, lack of ball movement, poor shot selection and an incredible number of unforced turnovers all contributed to a second quarter that saw the Wizards lead evaporate as they managed to score only 13 points in the quarter (as Atlanta scored 26). The Wizards, who turned the ball over 18 times in the game, helped Atlanta's defense by committing 15 turnovers by traveling, setting moving screens or other offensive fouls.

And just when Atlanta stretched out to its largest lead of 9 points, Wall cranked it up a notch. John Wall had stretches during the 3rd quarter in which he looked unstoppable. Not only was he blowing past people on 1-man breaks but he also began to blow by defenders in the half court as well as hit a jumpers. He began to show flashes of what he might become in the future and the prospects are awesome.

When playing a confident team - at least confident in the regular season - the Wizards cannot dig themselves a hole. On this night, there margin was too thin as they did not have enough scoring, particularly from their bench. The Wizards starters actually outscored the Hawks by 15 (WAS 85 - ATL 70), but the Wizards bench, I mean Yi, was outscored by 19 points (Yi 10 - ATL 29). Cartier Martin, who lead the team in scoring against Orlando, has to find a way to contribute offensively if he wants to maintain playing time.

The effort in this game was significantly better. For example, JaVale McGee, who looked over-matched against Dwight Howard, gave the Wizards a presence in the paint. Overall his minutes were limited due to foul trouble, but he still managed to set a record with 7 blocked shots. However, in part due to the number of offensive fouls he picked up, his minutes overall were limited due to picking up five personal fouls.  Oh, and he had that monster dunk.

While this wasn't a game that the Wizards were expected to win, particularly after how they played against Orlando. However, this is the type of game that the Wizards could have stolen on the road. The Wizards were close enough at the end that with a little more scoring this game could have ended differently. This is the type of game though that a young team can build upon. It was far from perfect, but the effort was closer to what you would expect from this team.

Other observations:

  • Wall (42:23) and Thornton (42:28) had to log heavy minutes. When they came out of the game, particularly Wall, the Wizards offense was non-existent.

  • When you look at the stat sheet, Andray Blatche had a solid night (18 pts and 7 reb). But when you factor in that it took him 19 shots and he had 4 turnovers, you realize that he had far from an efficient night at the office.

  • Thornton appeared to be much more aggressive in this game and was likely fueled on as his shot was falling. However, he has to do better than 50% (4-8) at the foul line.

  • JaVale McGee's positive and negative plays nearly offset on another. On the positive side of the ledger he had 7 pts (3-4), 8 reb, 1 steal, 7 blocked shots. However, he also had 5 personal fouls and 5 turnovers.

  • Defensively the Wizards did some things right as they were able to hold the Hawks to 42% from the field, 26% from the three point line while blocking 13 shots.

  • The Wizards did not do a good job of protecting the paint as they were outscored in the paint by 12 points (WAS 36 - ATL 48).

  • The Wizards must do a better job on the boards as they were out-rebounded by 9 (WAS 34 - ATL 43).

  • Foul shooting is often critical in a close game and the Hawks got the foul line 9 more times than the Wizards (WAS 21 - ATL 30) and they hit their shots at a higher percentage (ATL 80% - WAS 71%).

  • The Wizards defensive rotations in the first half were ragged at times as there were instances in which the players seemed to be confused on who to rotate to. The team must have made adjustments as their seemed to be less confusion in the second half.