Final Score: Wizards 114 Hawks 97
Tonight's game was a roller coaster ride but the Wizards came away with a much needed win, snapping a three game losing streak and an 11 game losing streak in Atlanta, by beating the Hawks, 114-97. The Wizards went up by 20 early, let the Hawks come all the way back, and then put them away in the fourth quarter, eventually winning by 17. The Wizards dominated the Hawks in the early going, but a huge run by the Hawks at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second cut the lead to one a couple of times in the third quarter, but never got the lead. In fact, the Wizards led wire to wire. At the end of the third quarter with the Hawks trailing by two, Webster and Ariza hit back to back threes to push the lead to eight. Webster's three was normal, Ariza's not as much. Ariza's was incredible, coming from the opposite free throw line at the third quarter buzzer. From there, the Wizards closed the Hawks out with a dominant fourth quarter, holding the Hawks to just 14 points.
The Wizards shot the lights out in this one, shooting 51.7% from the field, 54.2% from three and 81.8% from the free throw line. The Wizards committed just 10 turnovers and got 23 points in transition compared to 16 and seven for the Hawks respectively. The Wizards ball movement was also impressive, as showcased by 30 assists on their 46 made baskets. John Wall led the way in this regard with a virtuoso performance, scoring 21 points, dishing out 12 assists and committing zero turnovers. Seven Wizards finished the game in double figures, including Beal and Ariza who had 19 each and Gortat who had a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Trevor Booker had a big night off the bench, hitting some big shots when the game got dicey. He had 12 points on 6/8 shooting. For the Hawks, both Millsap and Brand had double-doubles with Millsap going for 21 points and 11 boards and Brand 20 and 10. - Jacob Raim
The Wizards, looking to snap an 11 game losing streak in Atlanta, have an 11 point lead at the half. And it's only that close because of a late 10-2 run by Atlanta. The Wizards dominated in just about all facets of the game in the first half, but it was the Wizards' ball movement that really was exceptional. They had 19 assists on 23 made buckets, led by seven from John Wall. The Wizards also got out in transition at a high rate, scoring 16 points on the break compared to just five for Atlanta. washington outshot Atlanta 47% to 45%, outrebounded them 25-21 and committed only three turnovers compared to the Hawks six. Bradley Beal was hot in the first half, scoring 15 points on 5/9 shooting, a good sign after Beal scored just nine last night against the Raptors. Gortat dominated on the boards, grabbing 10 rebounds and in the second half he'll be looking to threaten his career high of 18. Ariza added 10 points and seven boards while Wall had seven points and seven rebounds.
Look for the Wizards to continue to attack the Hawks thin front line in the second half. Gortat and Nene should both see a ton of touches in the paint as the Wizards look to really go after the Hawks down low. - Jacob Raim
We've returned to Phillips Arena. A place that has been a house of horrors of late for the Wizards. We haven't won here since 2008, losing 11 in a row since that time. It's not that the Wiz haven't been close, because two of the last three here in the ATL have come down to the final play. Last year, it was Kyle Korver who hit the dagger 3-pointer and then Martel Webster was about 0.2 seconds too late on his own game-winning attempt. This year, we battled back to force overtime, but then it was Al Horford who would be the villain to break our hearts as he hit the game-winner in OT.
For whatever reason, we just can't seem to find a way to win here in Atlanta. But, tonight the Wiz look to snap that streak and leapfrog the Hawks in the standings. Even with eight weeks left in the season and 29 games to play, it's hard to miss how close these two teams are in the Eastern Conference. The Wizards are a half game back of Atlanta for the five seed and a win tonight would move them ahead in the standings. The two teams will meet again on March 29th back in DC and these head-to-head games could prove to be the difference between seeds when the season ends.
The Hawks are hampered by a few injuries, most notably their All-Star Al Horford, who is out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle. Besides Horford, Gustavo Ayon (shoulder) and Pero Antic (ankle), two of the Hawks reserve big men who were filling in for Horford, will also be out. Guard John Jenkins is out with a back, Lou Williams is probable with migraines, while Demarre Carroll will be a gametime decision with a hamstring. Needless to say, this Hawks team will be undermanned and the Wizards will need to take advantage of this.
Elton Brand will likely have to move into a starting role and at 6'9 is the healthiest big man the Hawks will have active. He played 32 minutes last night, but likely will have to log big minutes for such an injury-riddled Hawks team.
Look for the Wizards to pound the ball inside and really exploit the Hawks in the paint.
Despite the injuries, Randy Wittman won't let his team think about the Hawks problems, but rather wants his guys to focus on themselves:
The Wizards have dropped three in a row and five of their last six, so they need to right their own ship and start tallying some wins now that the season is in the home stretch.
It was Trevor Booker who went off for 24 points and 14 boards the last time we were in Atlanta in December, and with the Hawks extremely thin up front, look for him to have another big night.
He spoke with Casey Phillips about the Hawks earlier today:
As the Hawks will likely be relying on their perimeter play tonight, watch for the battle in the backcourt, as John Wall and Jeff Teague are two of the conference's top point guards, while Bradley Beal and Kyle Korver are two guys who can't be left open from long range.
We'll kick off the Live Chat at 7:30 tonight and will be pick up the conversation there.
Remember to follow WashWizards on Snapchat for some behind-the-scenes coverage of tonight's game.