Wizards

Wizards lose another close finish to Hawks: Observations

Wizards

The Washington Wizards lost to the Atlanta Hawks 120-116 on Wednesday night. Here are five observations from what went down...

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The Washington Wizards at this point remain likely to qualify for the postseason play-in tournament, but they are certainly making it interesting, now having lost two straight games for the first time since April 5 and with their magic number stuck at one.

The Wizards lost to the Hawks in Atlanta on Wednesday, the same place they lost on Monday. They now either need to win one of their final two games or have the Bulls lose one of their final three.

The Wizards led the entire second half until the Hawks took the lead with 24.8 seconds left on a John Collins three. It was a tough way to go out, no question.

Westbrook was on fire

If you were wondering whether Russell Westbrook would slow down after capturing the triple-doubles record on Monday, you got that answer on Wednesday as he went off on the Hawks to fill up the box score with Bradley Beal still out due to injury. Westbrook had a monster stat-line of 34 points, 15 assists, five rebounds and three steals. He shot 4-for-9 from three.

Westbrook did much of his damage in the first half. By halftime he had 25 points, eight assists and four rebounds. He had 16 points in the second quarter alone.

 

Westbrook had 15 or more assists for the sixth straight game, which is the longest streak since John Stockton did that in 12 straight in 1990-91.

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Westbrook just keeps passing legends these days. In the first half against the Hawks, he jumped ahead of Larry Bird on the all-time scoring list. In the second half, he tied Gary Payton, leaving him 34th in NBA history in scoring.

Up next ahead of him is James Harden, who is still playing and rising the ranks himself. Westbrook may not catch him, but next season he should have a good chance to keep moving up with guys like Clyde Drexler, Elgin Baylor and Dwyane Wade not far ahead.

Westbrook has also already locked up the Wizards/Bullets franchise record for assists per game in a single season. Even if he had zero assists in his final two games, he would still beat John Wall's previous record of 10.7 set back in 2016-17. Westbrook's season average after Wednesday's game is 11.67, which would be the highest for any NBA player since 2011-12 (Rajon Rondo, 11.7) and the second-highest since 1994-95 (John Stockton, 12.3).

Trae is tough

The Hawks also had a star point guard putting on a show in Trae Young. He had a big game on Monday with 36 points and carried that over into this one with 33 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.

Young has proven to be a very difficult defensive matchup for the Wizards and not just because of his scoring. He's exceptionally good at lobbing passes to rolling big men. Time after time, Young got passes seemingly just inches over the outstretched arms of Daniel Gafford and Alex Len, right into the hands of Clint Capela or Collins. It's particularly impressive to watch against Gafford, who can jump very high in the air and has good timing blocking shots.

Gafford, though, figured Young out in the second half. Young drove baseline in the third quarter and tried to lob one over Gafford, who swatted it down and then ran down the floor for a fastbreak dunk. Gafford had a big game with 16 points in 17 minutes, but was mysteriously absent for much of the fourth quarter.

Bertans may be heating up

Westbrook led the charge, but there were a few others who stepped up offensively with Beal out, Davis Bertans among them. The Latvian Laser went 5-for-9 from three on Monday and followed that up with a 4-for-10 performance from long range in this one. One of those misses, however, was a would-be game-tying three with 8.6 seconds to go. It just barely rimmed out.

That moment aside, Bertans could be starting to heat up with very good timing. Before these two games, he shot just 29.8 percent from three in his previous seven outings. But time is running out in the regular season with only two games left before the play-in tournament begins. He will be a major X-factor as a bench scorer.