Five observations from the Hawks’ 115-99 loss to the Wizards in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal playoff series. The Wizard won the series, 4-2.
1. Turnovers kill.
The Hawks committed 22 turnovers for the game – but it was the 15 first-half turnovers that led to the 22-point deficit they were never able to completely erase. The Wizards, already a terrific transition team, turned the miscues into 27 points.
“We had 15 turnovers at halftime,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We had 22 for the game so only seven in the second half. It’s kind of night and day. You cut your turnovers in half and some of those might even have been late. The turnovers in the first half, a lot of them led to easy baskets. They had 24 fast-break points at halftime. Sixty-five points (allowed to the Wizards) at halftime is a big hole. It was too much for us to overcome tonight.”
Individually, Kent Bazemore had seven, Paul Millsap had six and Dwight Howard had five.
“Our execution has to be a little sharper, especially this time of year,” Bazemore said. “Teams know pretty much everything you are going to do, especially this late in the series. Setting screens, cutting with a purpose. A lot of guys trying to make the right plays. You have to give them credit. They were flying around, being physical. We just tried to match it a little too late.”
2. Despite the huge hole, the Hawks had a chance. They cut the 22-point deficit to three points twice in the fourth quarter.
“Defensively, we were able to piece together some consecutive stops, get some turnovers, get out in transition, attack the basket,” Budenholzer said. “I think we attacked the basket a little more. A couple 3’s. If you are going to make a run you have to put stops back to back to back. We did that and that fueled our offense. Thirty-six (third-quarter) points was a big part of getting their lead under 10 going into the fourth quarter.”
The Hawks started the run by outscoring the Wizards 36-24 in the fourth quarter and Dennis Schroder, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Millsap scored every point.
The Hawks were down by three, 100-97, when Schroder had a breakaway after a steal. However, John Wall chased him down and stopped the shot at the rim.
“He blocked the shot,” Schroder said. “He made a great play. He ran back and he blocked it.”
The Wizards ended the game on a 15-2 run after the pivotal play.
3. The Wizards backcourt of Wall and Bradley Beal were the difference in the series. They scored 63.5 percent of the Wizards points in the deciding game.
“They scored 73 points tonight,” summed up Millsap.
For the series, the duo scored 332 points. Wall had 177 for a 29.5 point average and Beal had 155 for a 25.8 average. The paired scored 51.9 percent of the Wizards’ 640 points in the series.
“They are one of the best backcourts in the league,” Hardaway said. “You have to give them credit. As much as we, I’m not going to say we don’t like them, but we are playing against them so they are not our teammates. You want to take that challenge. You want to take that to heart. They took the best out of our backcourt. They made a lot of their tough shots, a lot of their easy shots. When they had an opportunity to get their teammates involved, they did that as well.”
4. Dwight Howard was pretty good at the beginning. The Hawks center was nowhere to be found at the end. Again.
Howard had nine points and five rebounds in his 8:47 of playing time in the opening quarter. He forced two quick fouls on Wizards center Marcin Gortat.
Howard finished the game with just two more rebounds. That’s it. He headed to the bench with 3:40 left in the third quarter and did not return. It was the second time in the series he did not play a minute in the fourth quarter.
“When we need to score and we need to catch up, we need to play a little more of a spread offense,” Budenholzer said.
5. Just like that, the Hawks season is over.
A first-round exit after advancing the conference finals and the second round the previous two seasons. It will be a busy summer for the Hawks. Millsap will opt out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent. Hardaway will be a restricted free agent. There will be decisions to make on players such as Jose Calderon, Kris Humphries, Mike Muscala and Thabo Sefolosha.
“This group is a fighting group,” Millsap said. “With the ups and downs that we had, we found a way to compete. We shut down a lot of naysayers. We had a lot of people say we weren’t going to make the playoffs. I still feel like we had chances and opportunities to make it to the next round and do something special. We just ran into a team that was hot. The Wizards are hot. I like this team. I like the fight in this team. I’ll take that away.”