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Hawks reserves fuel late push after starters flame out


Hawks reserves fuel late push after starters flame out

Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer didn't officially throw in the towel with seven minutes remaining in Game 3 and Atlanta trailing by 18 points. He also didn't have his primary players on the court. The Wizards dominated the top seed to that point for a 94-76 advantage. There was no sense the final minutes would prove different.

"We didn't play well," the coach conceded. "You never know what's going to happen, but most likely you feel like you're not going to be able to close that gap."

Of course, that's exactly what the Hawks did. Using a lineup loaded with reserves, - "They went kind of radical there at the end," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said -, Atlanta scored the next 17 points.

They erased the entire deficit on forward Mike Mucala's 3-pointer with 14.8 seconds remaining. 

They eventually lost when Paul Pierce did what Paul Pierce does: Make clutch shots. Pierce drained a game-winning step back jumper at the buzzer to give the Wizards a thrilling 103-101 win and a 2-1 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series on Saturday night.

The Hawks fell on the final Truth bomb, but they were run out of the gym for most of the game. 

"None of us in our locker room feel great about the way we competed for the first three quarters," the NBA's Coach of the Year said. "It was not inspirational."

It's what happened over the final minutes that Atlanta hopes becomes its true takeaway. The Hawks outscored the Wizards 35-18 and forced five turnovers including multiple 24-second shot clock violations in the fourth quarter.

“I think we just competed as a team, I think the second unit did an amazing job of competing, running back and getting rebounds, and we just competed," said Dennis Schroder, who scored all 18 of his points after halftime. 

Kyle Korver was the lone Atlanta starter on the court late in the game. One of the league's elite 3-point shooters, he missed both of his deep attempts in the final period. 

“That was an interesting playoff game," said Korver, who didn't score after the first quarter. "The bottom line is they had their way with us for three quarters. They were more physical, and just kind of pushed us around and we didn’t respond well.

"The guys that came in for us in the fourth quarter gave us a huge lift and that was a great thing to see, but overall we got to play with more fire.”

The debate Budenholzer will have with himself in the hours after the loss and leading into Monday's Game 4 is this: Did the Hawks find a formula in the final minutes or show their true colors over the opening three quarters?

"I think to have a visual of what it takes is always a positive, but i think the feeling that was there the majority of the game is important too," he said. "I don't know which is stronger or more important. They're both real."

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Bruno Fernando

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Bruno Fernando

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Bruno Fernando

School: Maryland
Position: Center
Age: 20 (turns 21 in August)
Height: 6-10
Weight: 237
Wingspan: 7-3
Max vertical: 33.5 in.

2018/19 stats: 13.6 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.6 spg, 1.9 bpg, 60.7 FG% (5.1/8.4), 30.0 3PT% (0.1/0.3), 77.9 FT%

Player comparison: Jusuf Nurkic, Bam Adebayo

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 24th, NBADraft.net 12th, Bleacher Report 19th, Sports Illustrated 28th, Ringer 37th

5 things to know:

*Fernando tested the NBA draft waters last year before returning to school and clearly helped his stock by doing so. He went from a likely second round pick to someone who could fall in the lottery. Fernando is ranked in most mock drafts as the third-best big man in this draft behind Zion Williamson and Jaxson Hayes.

*He is one of the best rebounders in this class. He averaged 10.9 boards per game as a sophomore and had five games of 15 or more. That includes a 19-rebound performance against Nebraska on Feb. 6. Fernando is a strong, physical forward so there is reason to believe those skills will translate to the next level.

*Concerns about Fernando include his lack of an outside shot. He attempted only 13 threes in college and did most of his damage around the rim. But the potential for Fernando to become a reliable scorer in the NBA appear to be there. He has soft touch around the rim and can finish with power.

*Defensively, Fernando needs some work. He has the physical tools with his size and long arms, and he averaged 1.9 blocks per game in college, but some evaluatiors criticize his defensive instincts and discipline. As long as Fernando can block shots and rebound in the NBA, he should be fine on that end of the floor.

*Fernando is originally from the country of Angola and has played for their national team in several international tournaments. Angola basketball is famous for being the subject of one of Charles Barkley's most memorable quotes. During the 1992 Olympics, he said of USA's next opponent: "I don't know anything about Angola, but I know they're in trouble."

Fit with Wizards: Fernando would fit the Wizards in a variety of ways. Rim protection and rebounding are their biggest needs and he would help them to different degrees in both areas. With rebounding in particular, he could be a big plus.

But two questions about Fernando could give the Wizards pause. One is if they can justify taking him ninth when he may fall into the teens and second is what his ceiling will ultimately be. Does he have All-Star potential or will he top out as an Enes Kanter-type rebounding specialist?

Ideally, the Wizards would find someone with very high upside to give them hope for a true franchise building block moving forward. There may be better options than Fernando at No. 9, even if they play positions that are less of a need for the Wizards.

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Former Terp Kevin Huerter makes NBA All-Rookie Second Team

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Former Terp Kevin Huerter makes NBA All-Rookie Second Team

With Dallas' Luka Doncic and Atlanta's Trae Young leading the way, the top five NBA draft picks from 2018 have been selected as the top five NBA rookies this season.

Doncic and Young were unanimous first-team selections for the NBA All-Rookie team, which was announced Tuesday. Phoenix's Deandre Ayton, Memphis' Jaren Jackson and Sacramento's Marvin Bagley III are also on the first team, which was chosen by 100 voters who cover the league.

Ayton, Bagley, Doncic, Jackson and Young were the first five picks in the last year's draft.

This marks the first time since the 1984 draft that the first five picks ended up as first-team all-rookie -- the selections that year being Hakeem Olajuwon, Sam Bowie, Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins, Charles Barkley. That was the entirety of the rookie team that season; the NBA didn't start doing first- and second-team selections until 1988-89.

The Hawks had two all-rookie selections this season, with Kevin Huerter on the second team to join Young. Also on the second team were a pair of Los Angeles Clippers, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Landry Shamet, along with Cleveland's Collin Sexton and New York's Mitchell Robinson.

Rookie of the year will be announced at the NBA Awards show in Los Angeles on June 24. Doncic, Young and Ayton are the finalists.

Doncic and Young join other unanimous first-team all-rookie picks over the last decade: Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell (2018), Malcolm Brogdon and Dario Saric (2017), Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis (2016), Andrew Wiggins (2015), Michael Carter-Williams (2014), Damian Lillard (2013), Kyrie Irving (2012), Blake Griffin (2011) and Tyreke Evans, Brandon Jennings and Stephen Curry (2010).

Others receiving votes: Phoenix's Mikal Bridges, New York's Kevin Knox and Allonzo Trier, Minnesota's Josh Okogie, Dallas' Jalen Brunson, Brooklyn's Rodions Kurucs, Chicago's Wendell Carter Jr., Charlotte's Mile Bridges, Detroit's Bruce Brown, Sacramento's Harry Giles III, Orlando's Mo Bamba and Indiana's Aaron Holiday.