After getting blown out from the beginning of the game against the Brooklyn Nets, the Washington Wizards returned home looking for some kind of rhythm heading into the post season. With the Atlanta Hawks resting all of their starters and coach Randy Wittman doing the exact opposite for the Wizards, Washington executed a sound game plan. Led by John Wall, who had not played in a week, the Wizards won 108-99 in their final home game of the regular season.
Both teams started sloppy to begin the game as there was not much flow to the game. The Wizards stated under shooting under 30 percent from the field, while the Hawks were not much better at 25 percent. The Wizards began to heat up from beyond the arc as on three consecutive possessions, Paul Pierce, Bradley Beal, and Pierce again knocked down jumpers. Continued strong offense allowed the Wizards to go on an extended 21-5 run. With hot shooting from the field to end the quarter, 10 of 13 including 5 of 7 from deep the Wizards secured a sizable 38-22 lead.
The Hawks bench, which included players who usually do not get extended minutes, were able to provide a bit of a spark for Atlanta as they opened the quarter on a 9-4 run. The Wizards bench fought back though and returned the game to the starters with a comfortable 14-point lead. The back and worth nature of the game continued for the Wizards as the tempo and physicality of the game began to pick up. With the game at this point currently in hand, Whitman was comfortable in giving Bradley Beal and Nene additional rest in favor of Otto Porter, Drew Gooden, and Kris Humphries. The Wizards dominated the first half with a 66-45 lead to show for it.
The third quarter was evenly matched in a fast paced style of play where the ball was being pushed in all scenarios. The Wizards obtained their largest lead of 25 on a Bradley Beal dunk that ignited the crowd. After Beal and Nene exited the game the Hawks were able to put a bit of a dent in the lead with the help of transition points and three point field goals. The Wizards still took a comfortable 90-75 lead going into their final quarter at home during the regular season.
Beal and Nene reentered the game to start the fourth quarter as they had done to start the second and they helped sustain the Wizards double digit lead. The back and forth nature continued but the Hawks kept it close enough such that Whitman did not feel comfortable to rest his starters as Wall reentered the game. The Hawks were able to cut their deficit to nine with plenty of time in the game and many feared to be witnessing another Wizards late game collapse. The clincher came when Wall picked off a lazy backcourt pass of the Hawks and slammed it home. The Wizards would hold on to win 108-99.
Why the Wizards Won:
- Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer decided to give his starters a rest against a division foe. Although the Hawks had many role plays that received extended minutes today, defensively they could not keep up with Wall and company.
- Like the Wizards are known for, Washington had balanced scoring contributions from all starters. Entering the fourth quarter all starters were in double digits in a crisp effort.
- The Wizards thrive in transition where they can take advantage of their superior athleticism and speed. Fast break points are exactly where the Wizards won the game today as they held a 29-9 edge in the department.
The Wizards will finish up their last two games of the regular season on the road against the Pacers and Cavaliers. The Pacers are still trying to secure a playoff spot, which they are currently on the outside looking in, while the Cavaliers are locked into the two seed. Depending on the outcome of the Bulls game tomorrow, where a win will lock the Wizards into the fifth seed, the Wizards starters could see more time off in these final two games according to Whitman post game.