WASHINGTON -- Friday night's game between the Wizards and Hawks was the sixth time this NBA season where one team attempted at least 30 free throws - in this case, the Hawks - and the other team 10 or fewer - in this case, the Wizards. All six times, the team that enjoyed the outsized advantage in free throw attempts won the game.
And not surprisingly, of course, if there is a discrepancy of 20-plus free throws, then that is going to lead to a lot of easy points for one team. In Friday's 117-114 Hawks win over the Wizards, it stood out as the biggest difference between the teams. Atlanta went 28-for-34 from the charity stripe, while the Wizards shot 8-for-9.
"Thirty-four free throws, that's the game. You're giving them a chance at a free 34 points," Kyle Kuzma said.
There were two problems at hand in the Wizards' loss. They fouled too much and didn't get to the free-throw line enough. Afterward, all who addressed the media postgame lamented how they couldn't keep the Hawks off the line. Kuzma pointed out how Hawks star Trae Young was only 6-for-22 from the field but shot 10-for-11 from the free-throw line.
That allowed him to finish with 25 points despite a bad shooting night overall. He attempted more free throws himself than the Wizards did as a team. De'Andre Hunter led the Hawks with 26 points and largely because he went 7-for-7 from the line.
"We've gotta do a better job of defending without fouling," head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. "Showing our hands, being in the right spots, moving our feet, keeping bodies in front."
The Wizards have had issues all season defending without fouling. They give up the fifth-most free throw attempts per game (22.9) and because of that allow the third-most free throws made (18.3/g).
Getting to the line themselves hasn't been a major problem for the Wizards, for the most part, this season, but it has been lately. Two games before they only had nine free throw attempts against the Hawks, they topped out at six attempts in a loss to the Cavs.
Part of the problem could be the fact their top three players in free throw attempts this season are no longer playing for them. Bradley Beal is done for the year with an injury and Montrezl Harrell and Spencer Dinwiddie were traded. Between the three of them, that's nearly 13 free throws that are missing.
Kuzma, who averages the most free throws of the Wizards' remaining players, believes their issues go beyond personnel.
"It don't even make sense. That's the story every single night. I'm not trying to make excuses, but people around the league, the referees, they don't respect us. Point blank," he said.
"Then, you see the referees that we get, that's how it goes. For us, we have to do a better job of talking to them and then just trying to play harder through contact, I guess. I don't know what we've gotta do to get to the line. It's crazy."
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope seemed to agree with Kuzma. He feels like the Wizards are getting fouled, they just aren't getting the whistle.
"I don't know. I couldn't tell you. The refs don't see them? I mean, I feel like they see all the fouls that happen, they just aren't calling them enough," he said.
Until the Wizards can figure out how to generate their own free throws, defending without fouling will be even more important than it usually is. It's hard to win with the deficit they encountered against the Hawks.