How the Hawks lost another close one on the road to face elimination

Five observations from the Hawks’ 103-99 loss to the Wizards in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference first-round playoff series Wednesday.

1. The Hawks came close – again. They trailed by seven points, 98-91, with under four minutes to play but rallied to put another scare into the Wizards. They used an 8-3 run, including five straight points to start, to get within two points, 101-99, with 1:08 left.

The failed to score again.

John Wall scored on the ensuing possession for the Wizards. Paul Millsap missed a crowded shot in the lane. After stopping the Wizards, despite losing valuable seconds following a Marcin Gortat offensive rebound, the Hawks missed a 3-point attempt by Tim Hardaway Jr. after getting the ball back with 9.6 seconds remaining.

“I think we were right there,” Dennis Schroder said. “We had a chance to win. We missed a couple of rebounds. We missed a couple layups, shots. It’s tough. In crunch time we have to make those plays.”

The Hawks will need to win a game in Washington if they are to win the series. First they must force a Game 7 by winning at home on Friday. In the three losses on the Wizards’ home court, the Hawks lost by a total of 19 points. They have outscored the Wizards by 28 points in to wins on their home court.

“All three games here, we’ve given ourselves a chance,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We feel like we can play better. We went back (to Atlanta) for Games 3 and 4 and played better. We have to go back and play better in Game 6. That will be the focus. That will be where our mind is. For more of the 48 minutes, we have to be more focused. We have to be the aggressor. We have to take care of the ball. We have to have good possessions. We have to go stronger to the basket. Do all of those things for more of the 48 minutes. We are doing it but tonight credit them. They made more plays than us. We’ll go back to Atlanta for Game 6 and it’s got to be us who is the aggressor and us who makes the plays.”

2. The Hawks know that the Wizards’ backcourt of Bradley Beal and Wall are going to get their points. They can’t have another player beat them. While Wall and Beal for combined 47 points, Otto Porter Jr. scored 17 points on only four field goal attempts. Yes, he made back-to-back 3-pointers to start the third quarter. However, it was his 9 of 10 free-throw performance that hurt.

“If you look at the box score, Otto Porter only took four shots,” Taurean Prince said. “I feel like we were still took him out. He was just getting free throws. He did a good job of getting contact on his shots.”

3. Quite frankly, the 10 free-throw attempts by Porter puzzled Budenholzer. He saw Millsap and Wall being aggressive and combining for just seven free-throw attempts.

“That’s the thing that stands out to me,” Budenholzer said. “I keep going to the free throw line and keep seeing 10 free throws for Otto Porter. I genuinely can’t remember how he got to 10 but that’s a big number. You look at John Wall who shoots one free throw. You look at Paul Millsap who shoots six. Both those guys are attacking the basket all the time. That’s a big, big number. That’s how he gets to 17.”

4. Schroder had another solid game. He finished with 29 points and 11 assists, both playoff career highs, and had just one turnover. The Wizards’ dared Schroder to shoot the 3-pointer and he hurt them, especially early. He was 3 of 3 in the first quarter, made his first four attempts and finished 5 of 6 from long range.

The Hawks had been very good from 3-point range in wins in Games 3 and 4 at home. However, they were 9 of 31 in Game 5. Other than Schroder, the Hawks were 4 of 25 from 3-point range.

5. And so the series returns to Atlanta. The home team has won every game in the series and the Hawks would like nothing more than to defend their home court and try one more time to win in Washington, D.C.

“The good thing is, it’s all things we can fix,” Prince said. “We plan to get win in Game 6.”

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