The Washington Wizards wore a familiar look of frustration Wednesday night, just two days after a dazzling Christmas Day performance before a national audience.
If the Wizards peaked in their win at Boston, this 113-99 loss in Atlanta showed them at their lowest depths, getting outscored 35-23 in the final quarter to turn a close game into a blowout late. The energy they played with in Boston did not travel.
In the closing minutes, Hawks faithful chanted at the visitors ‘THIS IS OUR HOUSE” to celebrate just their team’s ninth win in 34 games. Wizards starters heard the serenade from the bench as they all finished with negative plus/minus numbers, yet another chapter of regression in a 19-16 season thus far defined by them
Bradley Beal needed 19 shots for a team-high 20 points, John Wall scored 10 points on a 3-of-9 shooting with 11 assists and the bench accounted for 34 points. In a game they may have expected to cruise, Washington’s offense looked stagnant in the second half and the Wizards wasted yet another opportunity to establish some momentum.
Too many lifeless losses against some of the worst teams in the league can do that. In the past week alone, they have losses to bottom-feeders Brooklyn and Atlanta to go along with their eight-point win at Boston.
Before the game Wednesday night, Coach Scott Brooks was asked if that win over the Celtics might have helped his team turn a corner.
“We’ll find out tonight, right?” Brooks said.
The answer wasn’t long in coming. Washington remains excruciatingly inconsistent and fell to a Hawks team that won back-to-back games for the first time this season.
The Wizards didn’t account for point guard Dennis Schroder and his knack for tossing lob passes at the rim for athletic teammates. They lost Marco Belinelli whenever he checked into the game and the reserve sharpshooter made six of his first seven shots. And Washington struggled to match the energy of rookie John Collins, who dunked every chance he could and snatched rebounds around bigger players.
Through much of the first half, Washington clicked offensively and shot at least 50 percent — the play of Markieff Morris and Otto Porter Jr. provided a clear front line edge as the pair combined for 21 of the team’s 55 points. And yet, the Wizards’ defense marred the first half by allowing Atlanta to a 12-point advantage in the paint.
Atlanta wasn’t as successful from the perimeter but made opportunistic threes. An alert defense would have noticed Kent Bazemore open beyond the arc in the fourth quarter, but instead Washington let him sink his third of the game. And with nearly seven minutes to go in the game, Atlanta — a shell of itself since advancing to the playoffs last season — had opened an 89-80 lead. The margin would grow to 18 a short while later when the crowd found its voice.
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