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Takeaways from Wizards' tough loss in Game 4 to Atlanta Hawks

Takeaways from Wizards' tough loss in Game 4 to Atlanta Hawks

ATLANTA – The only crying to be done Monday by the Wizards is when they look back at how they played in a disastrous second quarter, with a chance to blow out the Atlanta Hawks only to bottom out in Game 4.

Markieff Morris, who called Paul Millsap a “crybaby” after an 18-point loss in Game 3, was a no-show because of foul trouble and Atlanta rallied despite its starting point guard being saddled with three fouls in the first quarter to tie the series at 2-2 with a 111-101 victory at Phillips Arena.

Game 5 is Wednesday at Verizon Center.

The table had been set for the Wizards as they led by nine in the first quarter only to trail by that exact margin at halftime 59-50.

John Wall (22 points, 10 assists) got out to a fast start with eight points and five assists in the first quarter but sputtered. Bradley Beal (32 points) led all scorers. Otto Porter (13 points), who left Game 3 with a stinger in his neck and left shoulder, shot 5-for-10. Bojan Bogdanovic (13 points) had his best game of the series as he made multiple threes for the first time and went 5-for-9 from the field.

Still, the Hawks did much more. They had seven players score in double figures with Dwight Howard (16 points, 15 rebounds), Kent Bazemore (16 points, seven assists), Millsap (19 points, nine rebounds), Schroder (18 points), Taurean Prince (11 points, seven rebounds) and Jose Calderon (10 points, five assists) coming up with big shots at every turn.

The score was tied at 77 after the third quarter but the Hawks got stops, got out in transition and knocked down open shots that Washington had the habit of missing.

[RELATED: PHOTO: Hawks fans brought Morris 'crybaby' signs to Game 4]

--The Wizards shot 5-for-20, had eight turnovers in the second quarter (four by Wall) and were outrebounded 15-9. They were outscored 31-15 which turned the tide for good.

--Morris picked up his second foul at 6:44 in the first quarter and drew his third at 3:10 when trying to stop Prince on a drive. Prince shuffled his feet and the play should’ve been negated by a whistle but instead he got the and-1. Beal picked up his fourth in the last 49 seconds of the third when Schroder drove the lane. Ideally, that was Brandon Jennings’ assignment but he’s shown an inability to stay in front of the ball all series. Kelly Oubre had three fouls in his first six minutes.  

--Schroder picked up his third foul at 2:29 of the first quarter as Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer made a bad gamble. Schroder missed all three of his shots in 10 minutes played. The Wizards led 27-18 when he exited for Calderon, who ended up having to defend Beal.  Schroder didn’t play in the second quarter and when they went to the locker room the Hawks led 59-50 at halftime. Beal only got off three shots in the second quarter and made two of them. Wall shot 1-for-6.

--Oubre’s decision-making off a steal was typical of the Wizards’ play in the second quarter. Wall could be heard calling for the ball as he trailed and Atlanta had numbers back. Oubre continued his straight line to the basket where Hardaway awaited to take a charge. Wall misfired on a lob to Morris at the rim and then Beal misfired with a lob to Wall. What had been a nine-point lead was now a 41-38 deficit when Calderon buried a three.

--The Hawks weren’t finding shooters in transition or even when the pace was slowed. Beal’s second missed three came on a throwahead from Wall on a dead ball. Beal was all alone but backrimmed the shot. Bogdanovic had a spot up from a similar spot midway through the second quarter and didn’t get a runner to contest. He also backrimmed it.

--Howard had been a non-factor but had his first double-double of the series by halftime. Bazemore found him twice on lobs at the rim as there was confusion on the coverage as Gortat went to stop the ball. No one was back to contest or stop Howard’s roll to the rim.

--Jennings (five points) had a small burst when he took advantage of Mike Muscala switching onto him on the perimeter and drained a pair of stepback jumpers but that’s where his impact ended. Muscala’s time was limited to seven minutes while Ersan Ilyasova (six points) logged 22 minutes.

--Bogdanovic shot 1-for-10 from three for the first three games of the series before he found his touch late.

[RELATED: Will John Wall work out with Dennis Schroder this summer?]

 

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Despite place in standings, Wizards believe playoffs aren't a pipe dream

Despite place in standings, Wizards believe playoffs aren't a pipe dream

WASHINGTON -- This may be the most realistic and self-aware Wizards team we have seen in a while. It wasn't long ago they had a penchant for talking big about what they believed they could accomplish. Nowadays, knowing where they are in the standings, their expectations are much more measured.

They know they are 12th in the Eastern Conference, even after beating the Pistons on Monday. They know their 14-28 record, which is 14 games under .500 and has them on pace to win 27 total games, isn't good.

But the Wizards are allowed to dream and they say making the playoffs is still something they would like to do.

"That's the goal, that's every day for us. [It's] in the back of my mind," shooting guard Bradley Beal said.

"I watch the games, I watch the standings and everything. We're not talking about it," head coach Scott Brooks said. "If that comes into play [we'll see]. The seventh and eighth seeds, the records aren't great."

There is certainly a case for that. The two teams currently occupying the bottom two playoff spots in the East have sub-.500 records. The seventh-ranked Magic are 20-23 and the Brooklyn Nets are in eighth with an 18-24 mark.

Last season, the Charlotte Hornets held up the Eastern Conference playoff bracket with a losing record as the eighth seed. They went 39-43, not good but still a much better pace than the Wizards are currently on. To win 39 games, they would have to go 25-16 the rest of the way.

Though they have shown some positive signs, going 4-4 in their last eight games, that would require going to a completely different level in the second half of the season. Still, there is no harm in maintaining their goals.

Beal, for one, has envisioned a way it can happen.

"Especially once All-Star hits, that second half is just flying. We have to tighten up and try to get some wins here before the break because that's usually the time when teams like to ease off the pedal a little bit. We have to take advantage of [that], that advantage of our schedule, take care of our bodies, and rally together," he said.

If the Wizards really, really wanted to go for the playoffs, they could try to add some pieces before the Feb. 6 trade deadline. But that should not be expected. In fact, this year's deadline for the Wizards likely won't be affected much at all by the playoff picture.

It's hard to envision them being buyers and they may not be able to be true sellers, either, due to injuries and other factors. Also, there is a belief in the front office that keeping a close distance in the playoff race could be a nice incentive for their young players, that having something to work for later in the season could help their development.

If the Wizards did somehow make the playoffs or even get close, that would be quite the surprise and it would say a lot about the direction of the organization. But in the long-term, it would seem to be more beneficial if they continue on their current course and end up with a top draft pick.

The Wizards right now have the fifth-worst record in the league. That would net them a lot of ping-pong balls for the draft lottery.

It seems likely that's where this season will end. But it doesn't hurt to try.

"We just want to play. We just want to finish the second half of the season playing better," Brooks said.

The Wizards are only 4 1/2 games back in the playoff race. Stranger things have happened.

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Yu Darvish lauds Rui Hachimura for 'exceptional' accomplish playing in the NBA

Yu Darvish lauds Rui Hachimura for 'exceptional' accomplish playing in the NBA

Rui Hachimura has attracted the best athletes Japan has to offer in his rookie season in the NBA. 

From Shohei Ohtani to Naomi Osaka, Hachimura has impressed both on and off the floor, including Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish. He stopped by to see Hachimura's Wizards beat the Pistons Monday. 

"That's right," Darvish said to the Wizards' Japanese website. "We are going to dinner after the game so I stopped by."

Darvish and Hachimura are represented by the same agency and are two of the biggest Japanese stars in American sports. Darvish has had two down years with the Cubs in 2018 and 2019, but he's still considered one of the best pitchers to ever come out of Japan. 

Hachimura, while sidelined with a groin injury, flashed plenty of potential as a rookie for the Wizards. Before going down, he was averaging 13.9 points and 5.8 rebounds while shooting 48.2 percent. 

Darvish admitted he didn't know much about basketball, not even what stats are good to use. But he only cares that Hachimura is having fun. 

Selected with the ninth pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, Hachimura became the first Japanese born player to be drafted in the top-10. Japan has produced a number of great baseball players but hasn't been able to produce as many hoopers. 

"You don't have to be tall or big to play baseball," Darvish said. "But when it comes to basketball, you have to be tall and athletic and contribute to the team on a nightly basis. I think what he's accomplishing is more exceptional."

Scott Brooks isn't sure if Hachimura will return before the beginning of February and the team has yet to provide a timetable beyond that. Hopefully, we'll see him back on the floor soon because an entire country outside of the US is watching and can't get enough. 

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