The roster has been overturned for the Wizards, but what took place in the regular-season opener Thursday is what has transpired a lot in the last few seasons at Philips Arena. They had the game in reach and let it go in the fourth quarter with error after error in a 114-99 loss.
Jason Smith made his only field goal to put the Wizards up 82-81 in the fourth with 11:18 left. Then everything went awry. A 23-5 run by the Hawks, eneregized by frequent giveaways and wide-open looks with Tim Hardaway (21 points) leading the way, and the game was effectively over.
Markieff Morris (22 points) led the way but after Bradley Beal (13 points) got into foul trouble and had to leave the floor in the third quarter the game got away. Paul Millsap (28 points, seven rebounds, six assists) led all scorers for Atlanta followed by Dwight Howard (11 points, 19 rebounds) who had a dominant first half. Dennis Schroder (14 points) and Thabo Sefolosha (13 points) were instrumental as well in the outcome.
- Whether it was from a slippery floor or legs that were weary because he’s been recovering from a pair of knee surgeries, John Wall’s legs weren’t under him early. He was flat on an open jumper in the lane and short-armed a floater. He also hit the floor several times that caused turnovers. And he also fell once but was still able to find Morris for an assist. Wall missed 12 of 15 shots (12 points, 10 assists).
- The determination for Beal to be more than just a shooter was there. He forced the action, played the two-man game beautifully with Marcin Gortat (four points, 11 rebounds) as he caused the Hawks to scramble on defense. Of his first nine shots, only one of them was a three-point attempt and he still had 11 points. But picked up his fourth foul with 9:22 left in the third quarter with his team up 65-61 and they were lost without him.
- Morris’ movement on the weakside killed Atlanta most of the way. Wall and Beal commanded so much attention, he popped off the weakside for open shots or had isolations with Millsap and Mike Muscala that he could exploit. There was no over-dribbling by the guards. The ball moved the way it was supposed to move. He needed a breather and by the time he returned the game was out of hand.
- The second unit of Trey Burke, Marcus Thornton, Kelly Oubre, Andrew Nicholson and Smith looked as disjointed as they did in the preseason. Burke couldn’t get them in the offense quickly enough and a pair baskets that almost broke the game wide open. The Wizards trailed by as many as nine points but were able to get back. Scott Brooks called a timeout and sent the same unit back onto the floor. Burke was short on a jumper and the entire group was beaten down the floor for a dunk by Sefolosha.
- If this is the best Thornton can do, shooting guard will be the Wizards’ weakest spot off the bench. When Beal left, Thornton took some quick shots and wasn’t efficient. He’s the primary backup for Beal. On one sequence, he rushed up a shot for an airball that put the Hawks in transition. Thornton then committed a foul on Hardaway that put the Hawks back on top 54-53 and they went into halftime leading 57-56. Wall set up Thornton with a nifty behind-the-back pass for a three in the third and it was an airball. Thornton (five points) was 2 of 8.
- Atlanta shot just 38.8% (19 of 49) in the first half but finished the game at 50% (44 of 88). A large part of that was because of the 19 turnovers that translated into 26 points, mostly chip shots at the rim. Wall and Smith combined for nine of the giveaways.