Defense falls short for Hawks in 108-101 loss to Wizards


Nov 30, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards point guard John Wall (2) reaches for the ball as Atlanta Hawks power forward Paul Millsap (4) dribbles during the first half at the Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

When a team is forced to go on the road in a back-to-back situation with two of its best players, the task is already quite grand, but when that team also provides little resistance on the defensive end, the recipe for disaster is prevalent. That was exactly the case for the Hawks on Saturday night, as they went to Washington without the services of both Kyle Korver and Lou Williams and they left on the wrong end of a 108-101 final score.

As a group, the Wizards shot 48.7% from the field and a blistering 50% from beyond the arc (12 of 24) to put up 108 points against the undermanned Hawks, and it’s nearly impossible to win on the road when allowing that kind of efficiency. The offensive end wasn’t perfect for Atlanta, but in all fairness, they did more than enough to secure a road win, and just one night after the team clamped down in coming back against the Mavericks, the defense was the culprit in this loss.

There was a brief time in the middle of the second half when the Hawks gave everyone a ray of sunshine and hope that they could replicate Friday’s heroics. After falling behind by 18 points early in the 3rd quarter, the Hawks went on a 20-6 run to close within 4, and after the Wizards lengthened the lead back to 9 by the end of the period, Atlanta closed within 3 at two different points of the 4th. The final push would never come, though, as the Wizards preserved their late win.

On an individual basis, Paul Millsap had the best night for the Hawks. The power forward went for 23 points (on 9 of 14 shooting) and 10 rebounds in 35 minutes, and in a nice twist, Millsap knocked down 4 three-pointers on the night. Next to him, Al Horford had a typically productive day with 16 points, but he struggled to help on the glass (just 3 rebounds), and wasn’t overly fantastic on the defensive end.

Jeff Teague struggled from the field in this one, shooting just 5 of 18 on the night, and there were certainly times when the team looked better under the direction of Shelvin Mack. Mack was tremendous off the bench in 25 minutes, scoring 11 points, dishing out 6 assists, and swiping 4 steals, but in fairness to Shelvin, this team is only going to go as far as Jeff takes them, and there will be better days ahead.

This had to be a frustrating loss for Mike Budenholzer and the coaching staff, simply because they have preached defense (both in principle and execution) since day one of the season. However, there is no real shame in losing a back-to-back on the road to a decent Wizards team, and the Hawks will have a full travel day before ending up in San Antonio for Bud’s “homecoming” against his former team. Stay tuned.