Atlanta didn’t look like a team wrapping up a two-week road trip in the first half. They connected on 6 of their first 12 shots from deep. When they didn’t make shots, they worked Washington on the glass to get extra opportunities.
Atlanta took an 18-point lead less than three minutes into the second quarter which forced Scott Brooks to bring his starters back into the game. That plan only worked for a minute because Bradley Beal picked up his third foul on a questionable call.
Brooks brought Jordan McRae in to fill in for Beal and that’s when the Wizards’ offense finally got rolling. They outscored the Hawks 28-16 over the final eight-plus minutes of the half to cut deficit to four at halftime. Although Washington continued to struggle from deep -- they went 2-of-18 from deep in the half -- McRae scored 13 points on an array of daring drives to the basket that offset their struggles outside.
It felt like perhaps that would be enough to get Washington back on track and help them put the Hawks away in the second half. Then, Atlanta opened the third quarter with by scoring the first eight points and 14 of the first 18, even though John Collins was ruled out at halftime due to a facial laceration.
The Hawks dusted off Vince Carter to fill Collins’ void in the rotation and he went deep into his bag of tricks against Washington’s porous defense. He racked up 11 points in the third quarter alone en route to a 16-point performance in just 15 minutes of action.
Washington’s veterans finally intervened late in the quarter after Atlanta extended the lead back out to 17. Trevor Ariza and Jeff Green started making shots inside and out to get Washington back within striking distance at the end of the third quarter.
Bradley Beal shook off a shaky, foul-ridden performance with 18 points in the fourth quarter to get Washington back to within 4 points with a minute to go. They had a chance to really put the pressure on the Hawks, but Taurean Prince banked in a dagger three at the end of the shot clock to seal the win.
Washington now sits at 22-31, the only team that has two games to both the Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers. They are three games behind the eighth-seeded Miami Heat with just one game left against the Eastern Conference-leading Milwaukee Bucks before Thursday’s trade deadline.
The Wizards were unlucky, but they also made their own bad luck
The Hawks, who came into this game with the fifth-worst offense and the fifth-worst 3-point percentage, hit several threes in this game that don’t normally go in.
If a couple of Atlanta’s threes go the other way, maybe we’re having a different discussion right now, but maybe we’re not. After all, Atlanta won the rebounding battle 51-39. More misses could have just a easily led to more second chance opportunities for them. At the end of the day, you’re going to wind up on the wrong end of a lot lucky shooting nights when you allow opponents to get open as often as Washington does and give them extra opportunities because you can’t rebound.
Jeff Green continues to play well
Green scored a season-high 26 points and added 5 assists and 5 rebounds for good measure. Most of Washington’s success came with him on the floor, especially when he was at center. He’s averaging 18.6 points per game over the last five contests. We must wait and see what Washington does with him at the deadline, but if they want to move him, his recent play has certainly helped his value.