The Wizards and Atlanta Hawks are slumping, and Wednesday they didn’t do anything to cure their woes on the offensive end.
Somebody, however, had to win and in the final six minutes the team with the superior talent -- the Wizards -- finally created the separation needed behind their defense and backcourt play with a 14-4 run to pull out a 104-1oo victory at Verizon Center in front of 18,137.
Bradley Beal (28 points, nine rebounds) led Washington to end a two-game skid followed by John Wall (22 points, 10 assists), Otto Porter (10 points, eight rebounds) and Markieff Morris (13 points, seven rebounds). It was Wall's 46th double-double, just three shy of tying his career high from last season.
The Wizards (43-28) trailed for most of the game and took the lead in the fourth quarter on a three-pointer from Kelly Oubre (five points, five rebounds).
Both sides traded baskets but the tone of the game changed when Morris went at Ersan Ilyasova to exploit his matchup advantage in the fourth. In between, Wall and Beal had dunks off of steals and Morris had an and-1 of his own when going at Ilyasova in the paint.
The Wizards pushed their lead quickly to double digits but it was trimmed to three in the final minute. Wall’s pullup jumper pushed the advantage to 101-96 to stop Atlanta’s momentum and then had a steal to seal the outcome.
Tim Hardaway (29 points) led the Hawks who were playing without two starters, Paul Millsap and Kent Bazemore, because of knee soreness. Dwight Howard (14 points, 16 rebounds) and Dennis Schroder (18 points, six assists) contributed but the Hawks lost their fifth game in a row and continue to slide down the East standings.
--The second unit trimmed the deficit to 30-28 early in the second quarter, but when the Wizards went back to their starters it quickly climbed to 39-30. Open shots didn’t fall and they allowed the Hawks to get easy looks in transition. On one possession, Wall posted up Schroder and four teammates watched it. He threw the ball away because he had no passing angle when a double-team came from Taurean Prince. At least Prince’s man has to move without the ball to make himself available for the kickout and a high-percentage look.
--The Hawks are a top-10 team when it comes to isolation offense, which is surprising because they’re not talented enough to be one. They repeatedly went into Howard in clearouts vs. Marcin Gortat and Ian Mahinmi (four points, 10 rebounds) without much success. The only good iso heavy teams in the NBA in the top 10 are Cleveland and Toronto and that’s because they have superior 1-on-1 players in LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and DeMar DeRozan. The Hawks? Not so much. The Wizards were better off when Atlanta, which flourished in recent years because of ball movement with the now-departed Kyle Korver and Al Horford, used this strategy.
--Wall missed all eight of his shots in the first half and didn’t score. He finally made his first shot on a three-pointer at 10:58 of the third quarter and compensated for his poor shooting by forcing whistles. Wall appeared to make a more concerted effort to draw whistles and it worked. He got into the paint and appeared about to pass the ball but instead threw up a difficult shot and got a foul called. Schroder was too hands-on attempting to defend Wall on a screen and Wall immediately launched a shot. The whistle came shortly after and he was awarded three foul shots.
--Foul trouble again impacted Morris who picked up his third 37 seconds into the third quarter. He was only 2-for-7 shooting and had missed both of his three-point attempts at the time. His production coupled with Gortat (four points, six rebounds) has leveled off as a result. Gortat avoided fouls but focused more on defending Howard than looking for his offense. Morris started the end-of-game run by scoring nine of his points in the fourth.
--The rebounding issues the Wizards had in a loss to Boston, when they allowed 20 offensive, was flipped. They had a 55-44 edge in overall rebounding and 18-11 offensively.