Young Hawks Use Teamwork to Beat Wizards

12.27.17

 

Atlanta- Hawks point guard Dennis Schroder poured in 21 points and added 7 assists to lead 6 Hawks players in double figures as Atlanta collected a huge home win against the visiting Washington Wizards: 113-99.  It was Atlanta’s second win in a row and a feat this Hawks team has not been able to experience this season: that is until now.  The consistent message from Atlanta players and coaches this season has pointed to the tireless work ethic of the organization and the continued push to improve.  It was widely known around the league from the start that Atlanta’s young core would endure bumps and bruises this season as the organization undergoes a transition, however, one can’t look at the players’ effort as evidence of this transition.  Coach Mike Bundenholzer and his staff have done a tremendous job of keeping this season’s edition of the Atlanta Hawks competitive and constantly in search of that signature win to show continued improvement. Wednesday’s victory would certainly qualify as this signature win.  Atlanta came into this contest well rested after defeating Dallas on the 23rd and taking the next 3 days off for Christmas.  Schroder’s season-high 33 points led the Hawks to a season sweep of the Mavericks.  However, though the Dallas win (and for that matter, any win in the NBA) was special, being able to put together back to back victories was even more important to a team that finds themselves scraping the bottom of the Eastern Conference.  Accomplishing this task would be difficult as it required defeating one of their strongest Eastern Conference opponents in Washington.  Washington entered the game on a high note as well having traveled to dispatch the Boston Celtics in one of the nationally televised Christmas Day games.  In the Christmas day affair, Washington’s star backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal revealed why this Wizards team would be in the hunt for the Eastern Conference title.

 

Given the recent schedule, one could imagine the tenor of the game’s opening quarter.  On one side there was a Wizards team that, after having a huge win on national television 2 nights before seemed to be having a letdown on the road against a lesser opponent.  Their opponents, Atlanta, seemed to be fighting through the rust that can develop after an extended layoff during a season.  Both teams struggled to find their shooting touch early and the large collection of missed opportunities made for a low scoring contest. However, the visitors from the District of Columbia begin to find their way early and it came from the most unlikely of places.  While Beal and Wall are the marquee names, it was the much improved Otto Porter Jr. and Markieff Morris who laid the early groundwork for Washington combining for 21 of  Washington’s 57 first-half points.  Atlanta, on the other hand relied on a more balanced attack to keep pace with Washington through the 1st half of play.  Kent Bazemore scored 8 points in the half in addition to 6 assists to lead the Hawks’ charge while veteran reserve Marco Belinelli created a punch off the bench with 11 first-half points (9 in the first quarter).  On two different occasions, Atlanta needed to put together significant runs, including a 17-7 run at the end of the 1st quarter, to keep the Wizards from pulling away early.  As such, Atlanta’s confidence remained steady heading into the break down only 57-55.

 

The expectation among the many in attendance was that the second half would see Wall and Beal begin to assert their will on the court and make a push to gain an early edge.  Those familiar with Atlanta’s struggles this season would also expect that while the Hawks would put up a valiant effort, the young group would succumb to the more talented visitors because it has become such the norm up to this point in the season.  Tonight, however, showed the growth of this Hawks team.  Washington’s signature three began attacking the rim early in the 2nd half as scheduled but there was something a bit different: (1) the shots that fell on Christmas Day in Boston didn’t seem to fall on Wednesday and (2) the Atlanta Hawks were up for the challenge.  Washington jumped out to a 7-point advantage before a Schroder 3-point basket halted the Wizard’s run and shifted the momentum to Atlanta.  A Belinelli free throw with just under 5 minutes remaining gave the Hawks a one-point lead and Atlanta dug in for a fight.  Perhaps no other play would be evidence of this fight than the final play of the 3rd period.  Hawks rookie John Collins ended a mad scramble at the rim to tip in a rebound at the buzzer to give Atlanta a 2 point lead going into the final quarter. The final period of play was more back and forth and both teams geared up for the stretch run.  All of a sudden, what resembled a game that would go down to the wire ended up much different.   With just over 6 minutes left in the contest, Atlanta clung to a 4 point advantage.  Washington’s well began to run dry and the Hawks just kept pressing on.  3 minutes later the 4 point advantage grew to 11 and 2 minutes after that Washington found themselves down 17 and waving the proverbial “white flag” by clearing the bench for the remainder of the contest.  Ersan Ilyasova was key during this stretch (12 of his 20 points) however, just as it’s been all season with this Atlanta team, it was a team effort that helped Atlanta break through to back to back wins.

 

Beal led the Wizards with 20 points while Morris chipped in 18.  While Wall found it difficult scoring the basketball, he did lead Washington with 11 assists on the night.  For Atlanta, Belinelli and Ilyasova both supported Schroder with 19 and 20 points respectively.  While both teams still remain on different planes as far as conference standings are concerned, we continue to believe that this Atlanta Hawks franchise is finding success one step at a time.

 

 

Up Next

 

Atlanta Hawks v. Toronto Raptors

Friday, December 29, 2017

Air Canada Centre

Toronto, ON

7:30pm

 

 

 

 

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