Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer gestures during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Friday, April 6, 2018, in Washington. The Hawks won 103-97. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Observations from watching Hawks at Wizards on TV. . . .
The Wizards apparently didn't get the memo from Orlando and Miami that they should take the shorthanded-but-scrappy Hawks seriously. The Hawks played with more zip and grit from the start, kept grinding when the shots stopped falling and had a strong finishing kick behind Taurean Prince. The Hawks eviscerated Washington's half-speed pick-and-roll defense while building an 11-point lead in the second quarter. The lead was down to four at halftime and gone less than three minutes after it but the Hawks built another double-digit lead in the third quarter. The Hawks couldn't hold it as the they missed 8 of 10 shots to begin the fourth quarter but they kept the pressure on the Wizards with defensive effort--Washington went 5 ½ minutes without a score at winning time in the fourth quarter.
Tyler Dorsey's three-pointer got the Hawks within 93-90 and Mike Muscala's three put them ahead 95-93 with 2:04 to go. After Wizards guard Bradley Beal threw an errant pass, Hawks center Dewayne Dedmon fed wing Prince on a cut for a score. Beal missed a shot at the rim, followed by Prince's score on a nice fadeaway move in the lane for a 99-93 lead. The Hawks finished off the Wizards when Prince drove to the rim and dropped off to Dedmon for a dunk that made it 101-95.
The Hawks (23-57) began the night with the league's third-worst record. As the Hawks game ended the team with the second-worst record, the Grizzlies, were leading the Kings by four points at halftime the team with the fourth-worst record, the Mavericks, were losing in overtime at Detroit.
Hawks rookie John Collins (10 points, 10 rebounds, five assists) had a John Collins game: efficient production because of superior energy and bounce around the basket. Collins also scored off the dribble on a spin move, a new wrinkle he's added over the final few games. Collins has established himself as a rotation-quality big. The next step is expanding his offensive game and proving he can be efficient at a higher usage rate.
Dorsey had been in a bit of a shooting slump lately but broke out with 7 of 14 shooting from the field, including 4 of 8 on three-pointers.
After being listed as questionable, Prince (back) started his 80th game. Entering tonight Prince was one of just nine players to start as many as 79 games this season. Prince wasn't making his shots but he got to the free-throw line (6 of 6) and made plays (five assists). Prince was aggressive defensively, sometimes too aggressive--he got into foul trouble in the third quarter.
Isaiah Taylor was 2 of 6 on three-pointers, earned free throws (two makes) and recorded four assists. He couldn't finish at the basket (1-for-4 on two-pointers) and committed four turnovers (two on offensive fouls).
Damion Lee's age and injury history both suggest he is not a good NBA prospect. But then Lee keeps producing in actual NBA games, and looking quite comfortable doing so. Tonight's line: 11 points on nine shots, six rebounds, three assists, three turnovers.
DeAndre' Bembry made his first start of the season at shooting guard, replacing Lee. Budenholzer is playing Bembry in short stints as he returns from an abdominal injury. The positive development for Bembry is that he's played three games this week and seems to be moving well. Against the Wizards, Bembry again was disruptive defensively with his length and energy.
The Wizards were without All-Star John Wall (rest). Then game official Leroy Richardson ejected Wizards forward Markieff Morris at 4:11 of the first quarter. That was a significant loss for Washington because Morris is a good passer and three-point shooter. Also, the Wizards are a below-average defensive team and Morris ranks second among their regulars in defensive rebounding percentage.
About the Author
Michael Cunningham has covered the Hawks and other beats for the AJC since 2010.