Costly defeat for Wizards as Hawks grab win for playoff positioning


WASHINGTON -- The Washington Wizards lost to the Atlanta Hawks 117-114 on Friday night at Capital One Arena. Here are five observations from what went down...

Costly defeat

As the Wizards enter the final quarter of their 2021-22 season, they remain in the thick of the race for a spot in the play-in tournament. Friday's loss to the Hawks, however, was a reminder it will be no easy task.

The Eastern Conference is the deepest it has been in years, possibly even decades. They are trying to catch an Atlanta team that was in the conference finals last season and now, after beating Washington on Friday, sits 2 1/2 games up, holding the final play-in spot. 

The Hawks have had a disappointing year, but they remain very talented and that was displayed in this game. Trae Young was a handful with 25 points and eight assists, while emerging young wing De'Andre Hunter had 26 points.

The Hawks went up by 14 points, but the Wizards battled back to make it a close one in the end. Kyle Kuzma nearly tied the game at the final buzzer with a halfcourt three that rimmed out.

This win could come in handy for the Hawks, who now have a 2-1 lead in the season series. The two teams will play once more on April 6 and whoever takes the series will have the postseason seeding tiebreaker. With this loss, the Wizards dropped to 28-34 on the season, the same record they had at this point last year.

Free throw discrepancy

Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. has talked a lot recently about how the Wizards are struggling to get to the free-throw line. Against the Cleveland Cavaliers last weekend, they only attempted six free throws the entire game. On Friday, they were once again on the wrong end in the category, as they went 8-for-9 at the line compared to 28-for-34 for the Hawks.

While some of it is the Wizards are not getting calls that they should be getting, one thing worth noting here is the Wizards' recent changes in personnel. Their top three players in free throw attempts this season are all out of the picture. Bradley Beal is done for the year due to injury, while Montrezl Harrell and Spencer Dinwiddie were traded at the deadline. Kristaps Porzingis should help that cause once he plays, but they need others to step up by being more aggressive attacking the rim and forcing the issue.

Hachimura is shining through

Rui Hachimura had another good game with 19 points on 7-for-10 shooting off the bench. He shot 3-for-4 from three. It was his third straight game reaching double-figures in scoring and his ninth consecutive game with at least one three made. The latter is a career-high for him.

Hachimura has been the Wizards' most accurate 3-point shooter this season (54%) and lately has stood out as one of their best players overall. It seems like he's playing well enough to earn more time on the floor. The Wizards have gradually increased his minutes over the last two months, as he was initially eased in after a long layoff. But he's still topping out in the 20s, on Friday at 26 minutes, and you have to wonder when he will start playing 30-plus minutes a game if he continues to perform as he has.

KCP is trending up

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has arguably been the Wizards' most consistent player this season in that he's pretty much the same guy he's been for years every single night. He takes on tough defensive assignments and makes threes. He knows his role and he sticks to it. 

Lately, though, he's been taking advantage of the opportunity to score more. He had 28 pointson Friday night to go along with five assists and five rebounds. He shot 6-for-6 from three. It was the third time in six games Caldwell-Pope has scored 20-plus points. In this game, he also spent time covering Young on the other end.


Now here's something you don't see every day. Each of the first three quarters in this game ended on buzzer-beaters. Bogdan Bogdanovic ended the first quarter with a last-second shot, then Deni Avdija did it in the second quarter, then Bogdanovic did it again in the third. That seems like an extremely rare occurrence. Seriously, what are the odds?

It would be hard to find out whether that has ever happened before. The resources available online don't track buzzer-beaters to end quarters, just games. And play-by-play data in the NBA only goes back to the mid-90s. Bogdanovic's first shot also technically left 0.3 seconds left on the clock. Still, it was an amazing sequence of events and one that is probably extremely rare in NBA history.

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