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Takeaways from Wizards' Game 3 blowout loss to Atlanta Hawks

Takeaways from Wizards' Game 3 blowout loss to Atlanta Hawks

ATLANTA – For the first two games of the series, the Wizards’ two best stars – John Wall and Bradley Beal – were better than those of the Atlanta Hawks. Paul Millsap and Dennis Schroder were able to flip that Saturday in a 116-98 win at Phillips Arena to rim the series to 2-1.

Schroder (27 points, nine assists) and Millsap (29 points, 14 rebounds) had high percentage looks early and cashed in. Taurean Prince (16 points) and Dwight Howard (five points, 11 rebounds) had smaller but significant roles that helped put them over the top.

Game 4 is Monday at Phillips Arena.

Nothing went right in a 38-20 first quarter for Washington, which found itself down 19-4 just five minutes in.

The Wizards were 1 of 6 on three-point shots while they allowed 5-for-9 from deep. The Hawks had an 18-6 edge in paint points in the first 12 minutes alone.

John Wall (29 points, seven assists) was brilliant offensively as he made 10 of 12 shots and went 8 of 10 from the foul line despite Atlanta doing its best to keep him from the rim.

Offensively, however, Wall didn’t get any support. Bradley Beal (12 points), Otto Porter (seven points) and Markieff Morris (nine points) combined to shoot 7-for-17. Marcin Gortat (two points) was held to one field goal.

[RELATED: Porter leaves Wizards-Hawks Game 3 with injury]

--The ball pressure that was present in Games 1 and 2 disappeared. The Hawks were able to catch the ball in their sweet spots and get up shots off lane penetration. Though they started hot, the Hawks’ three-point shooting cooled. They were 3-for-14 from the second quarter to midway point of the fourth. That was still better than the Wizards’ 7-for-29 shooting from three.

--Beal and Porter had clean looks that looked off the moment the shots left their hands. Beal airballed a 12-foot pull up in that went uncontested. Combined with Morris, they shot 8-for-29 in the first half, or 27.5%.

--As Game 2 showed, Jason Smith (two points, four rebounds) isn’t a good matchup with Millsap. Ten seconds after he entered, he had to foul because off the dribble he was beaten. He then picked up a charge. When Smith came back in late in the third, he bit a pump fake from Millsap and committed a Flagrant 1 foul. Smith had three fouls in his first two minutes played. Smith fouled out with 7:11 left in the game on Millsap. He played a total of eight minutes.

--Going in, Schroder wasn’t successful shooting when he had to launch from beyond 5 feet. He was 30.4%. But he lived at the rim in getting 21 of his points in the first half and that rhythm led to him making 3 of 5 threes.

--The open-door defense of Brandon Jennings (13 points) continued vs. Jose Calderon. While Atlanta’s backup only had two points from making his only shot of the first half, he got deep and forced helped. When Calderon moved the ball, it found open shooters which is how his team was 26 of 47 in the first half from the field, or 55.3%. They also were 6 of 13 on threes, or 46.2%. Jennings’ offensive numbers look better because he tallied most of them with the game out of reach late.

--The Wizards only had five first-half assists not because they were playing in isolation but because they weren’t making much. They shot 3 of 14 on threes, or 21.4%. Beal missed all four of his deep balls. Before the starters were pulled late in the third, the starters had just eight assists.

--Kelly Oubre never could get on track. He picked up two fouls in his first seven minutes, including a charging foul when he refused to change direction and plowed into Millsap. Before one minute elapsed to start the second quarter, he was pulled for Porter.

--Porter left with six minutes left in the third quarter after he was picked off by a screen on a layup by Prince. He didn’t return because of a “strained neck.” He collided with Tim Hardaway on a split action, went to the locker room and didn’t return to the bench.

--The Wizards pulled their starters and got the deficit down to 93-79 with 9:16 left in the fourth with Jennings, Tomas Satoransky, Bojan Bogdanovic, Oubre and Smith. A layup by Jennings forced a timeout by Atlanta which re-inserted starters Schroder, Millsap and Prince. The Wizards went back to theirs but the deficit quickly grew.

--Bojan Bogdanvoic (11 points) still isn't in form. He missed all of his looks from three-point range, going 0-for-4. 

[RELATED: Wizards Tipoff podcast, Ep. 9 - Wiz-Hawks a fun 1st round series]

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5 observations about the Wizards at the midway point of the 2019-20 season

5 observations about the Wizards at the midway point of the 2019-20 season

The Wizards' 29-point loss to the Raptors on Friday night was the 41st game of the year, meaning Washington's 2019-20 regular season is officially halfway through.

With that in mind, here are five observations from the season so far; some expected and some unexpected...

They are who we thought they were

In some ways, this season has gone exactly how most thought it would. Bradley Beal has been an All-Star level player, but poor defense and an inexperienced roster around him has led to a team headed safely towards the lottery. They are 13-28 after 41 games, meaning they are on pace to win 26 on the season.

That's about what Vegas predicted, as evidenced by over/under win totals that stayed around 28.5. And that's what most reasonable forecasts had them being; a team with intriguing talent that was probably a year away from contending for the playoffs again.

Sheppard has found some guys

The early returns on the Tommy Sheppard era are good and that should be seen as one of the most important positives of this season so far. Just look at the gems he has acquired in a relatively short period of time as general manager. He drafted Rui Hachimura, a plug-and-play guy, with the ninth overall pick. He got Davis Bertans, Moe Wagner and Isaac Bonga in trades basically for nothing. 

He got Garrison Mathews out of nowhere. He signed Ish Smith instead of giving more money to Tomas Satoransky. And even his minor deals with guys like Anzejs Pasecniks and Gary Payton II have impressed to a degree.

It is very early in his tenure, but Sheppard is showing he has the ability to find diamonds in the rough, a skill that is one of the biggest separators between GMs.

It has also become evident on social media that Sheppard is gaining some clout among fans. Given the previous distrust in the front office, that is definitely worth noting.

The injuries have been ridiculous

Though injuries happen to every team and they are ultimately no excuse, the health of the Wizards has undoubtedly been a major part of their season to this point. They have had as many as eight players missing at times due to injury, or in other words more than half of their roster.

That has included two hardship exceptions and the players acquired as a result were even starting at times. Their best players have been hurt, even Beal who had previously played 194 straight games. Lately, they have been getting healthy, but the rash of injuries was enough to leave its mark on their 2019-20 campaign as a whole.

Beal may or may not be sold on the future

Though this season has mostly gone as expected, it has been fair to wonder how Beal has handled it all, given he is far and away their best player. He signed a contract extension to be part of this, but he's used to winning more games and it's only natural for him to be frustrated with how things have gone.

Beal backed up those theories with his comments this week about the team's culture, and the whole situation is going to be worth watching closely moving forward. The Wizards' best player appears to be a bit anxious about the franchise's future. Whether they can match their timeline to contend with his remains to be seen.

The Wall thing is going to get interesting

This was also pretty easy to call going into this season. Now over 11 months into his recovery from a ruptured Achilles, John Wall is making steady progress towards a return and the debates of whether he should come back this season or not are coming into focus. 

The discourse was taken up a notch recently with NBC Sports Washington's report about him playing in three-on-three scrimmages, and then again days after with video of those games. Though he isn't quite ready to come back, he is looking good and there are still three months remaining in the Wizards' season. 

Will he be ready one month from now, or two? Even if he is, will the Wizards bring him back or wait until next season? Those are major questions with no easy answers.

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Wizards committed more turnovers against the Raptors than they have in any game in 25 years

Wizards committed more turnovers against the Raptors than they have in any game in 25 years

Whether it's good or bad, nothing the Wizards do is subtle. 

They'll score a million points and give up two million points. They'll beat the Heat, Nuggets and Celtics without Bradley Beal but also blow an 18-point fourth quarter lead to the Bulls. 

The Wizards had some turnover issues Friday night, but again, they're never subtle. 

Washington committed 28 turnovers on the way to a 29-point loss. Following the first seven minutes of play, the Wizards had seven turnovers and seven points. 

The last time the Wizards turned the ball over that much was April 2, 1994, in a 104-96 win over the Bucks. The last time an NBA team turned it over 28 times? The 2010 Suns. 

Nine Wizards players had multiple turnovers, while five players had at least three. 

Following Bradley Beal's comments criticizing the team's culture and need to develop winning habits, the Wizards' response left more than enough to be desired. Credit the Raptors defense utilizing their length and ball pressure to take advantage of when the Wizards were loose with the ball, but it takes more than good defense to turn it over 28 times. 

The bright side is this was an uncharacteristic performance for the Wizards. They currently average the 10th-fewest turnovers per game in the NBA, so there's a good chance they clean things up on Monday against the Pistons. 

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