WASHINGTON -- The Washington Wizards lost to the Atlanta Hawks 114-107 on Friday night at Capital One Arena. Here are five takeaways from what went down...
The thing about late-season games with postseason implications is that as much as they help if you win them, they can especially hurt if you lose. The Wizards had an opportunity to gain some ground in the playoff picture with two games at home this week against the Hawks, but Atlanta won both of them, creating more distance between the teams in the standings.
Washington (31-36) has now lost four of their last five games with only 15 remaining on their schedule. Atlanta took a 2-1 lead in the season series with the final meeting set for April 5.
That's a bitter pill to swallow, as the Wizards now head to Philadelphia to see a very good Sixers team that ranks third in the Eastern Conference.
Some games are more nuanced than others. This one was pretty straightforward. The Hawks shot very well from three, while the Wizards did not and that was where the game was won. Washington labored all night to get shots to fall, going 7-for-27 (25.9%) from deep. Atlanta, meanwhile, was filling it up from all over, going 15-for-31 (48.4%) from beyond the arc.
The only guy on the Wizards who really had it going from the perimeter was Kristaps Porzingis (22 points), who made three threes. The Hawks had a bunch of guys get hot including Trae Young (28 points, six threes), Bogdan Bogdanovic (15 points, four threes) and Saddiq Bey (14 points, three threes). Atlanta is not a very good three-point shooting team, but you wouldn't have known it watching this game.
Morris back in lineup
Monte Morris returned from a weeklong absence in Wednesday's game to come off the bench for the very first time this season. It was shortlived, however, as he was back in the starting lineup on Friday night. Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. made the change official shortly before tipoff. During his pregame press conference, Unseld Jr. said he hadn't decided on his starters yet, which usually means a shakeup is coming. Indeed that was the case.
Unseld Jr. gave a few reasons on Wednesday why he kept Delon Wright in the starting lineup and had Morris come off the bench. Basically, it came down to the coaching staff liking what they had seen out of the starters with Wright on the court, plus Morris having just returned from an injury and being on a minutes restriction. The Wizards had lost four of seven games with Wright as the starter, but weren't able to change their fortune with Morris back in there.
The biggest problem for the Wizards in their loss to the Hawks on Wednesday was their turnovers, as they had 19 of them and Atlanta was able to take advantage. Despite being keen on cleaning them up in this game, the same problems persisted. The Wizards had 15 turnovers, which may not seem like a ton, but they had 10 in the first half.
The strange thing is, Atlanta is not exactly good at both defense and generating turnovers. They entered this game ranked 22nd in defensive rating and 15th at turnovers forced per game. Why the Wizards had so much trouble protecting the ball against them is anyone's guess, but it certainly cost them.
Gafford was good
While the Wizards did not shoot well from the outside in this one, they stuck around in large part because they dominated the paint, outscoring the Hawks 60-to-32 in paint points. A big reason for that was Daniel Gafford, who had a strong offensive night with 13 points on 6-for-7 shooting.
The Wizards found Gafford for a few easy baskets on defensive breakdowns by the Hawks. But Gafford also got a few really difficult baskets to go down through contact. Gafford, by the way, is still behind pace of the 300 field goals he will need to make by the end of the year to qualify for the official field goal percentage leaderboard. He's on track for about 283, if he can get to 300 he could set the all-time record for single-season field goal percentage. He's shooting 75% and the record is 74.2%.