Hawks’ late-game closeout a step in right direction


Did the Hawks finally turn a corner after one miserable fourth-quarter failure after another this season?

Maybe.

A 113-99 win over the Wizards on Wednesday night was unexpected and represented just one victory in a long NBA season. But it may well have been a step in the right direction for the way the Hawks, at long last, closed out a game. The Hawks (9-25) outscored the Wizards (19-16) in the fourth quarter 35-23, which included a 22-8 run that gave them an 18-point lead with less than two minutes remaining. The Hawks now have nine wins, still the league’s worst record with two less than the Lakers, Grizzlies, Mavericks and Magic.

In the Hawks’ 34 games this season, they have led, been tied or trailed by one possession at some point in the fourth quarter in 25 of the contests. They have little in the win column to show for it.

“It’s tough losing,” Dennis Schroder said after the Hawks recorded their first back-to-back wins of the season. “Everybody hates losing. We just have to find a way to make it happen. Right now, how we are playing, we are doing everything together. Playing for each other. When we play like that, we have fun and we win a couple of games as well.”

Ersan Ilyasova had 11 points in the Hawks’ decisive fourth quarter, making all three field goal attempts with two from 3-point range. Schroder had six points in the period as the Hawks shot 50 percent from the field (11 of 22) and outrebounded the Wizards 14-7.

Of the Hawks’ 25 losses, nine have come by six points, two possessions, or less. Five of those defeats have come in the past 11 games. Just prior to their consecutive home victories over the Mavericks and Wizards, the Hawks lost at the Thunder on Russell Westbrook’s 3-pointer in the final seconds playing without Schroder on Dec. 22. They also lost a home game to the Pacers on Dec. 20, a 10-point loss after they trailed by just two at halftime. That lost was difficult, according to coach Mike Budenholzer.

“I really felt like we’ve been playing better basketball with the exception of the second half against Indiana,” Budenholzer said of the Hawks’ recent play. “We were really disappointed, really frustrated with that second half. But in the first half of that game and in some of the games prior, we’ve been playing better. Our offense has been a little more efficient, a little more dynamic. We are getting guys back healthy and we are playing bigger more.”

While the Hawks go through a rebuild, and many in the fan base hope for a top pick in next year’s draft, there is no denying they have been close late in games. The Hawks have played 19 games that were within five points with five minutes remaining and have a 6-13 record. Their 153-point output is 14th in the league in that clutch situation, scoring 24 points less than their opponents.

The win over the Wizards might have been the second-best of the season, behind a two-point win at the Cavaliers in early November.

Taurean Prince admitted losing late in games has been frustrating.

“Yes, but that’s just life,” Prince said. “We are not even talking about basketball. It’s life and you have to take it for what it is, continue to give 1,000 percent effort and live with the results.”

 The Hawks are on the road to getting healthy in a thinned frontcourt. Starting center Dewayne Dedmon was cleared for on-court activities. He has missed 14 games with a left tibia stress reaction. He is about two weeks away from a return. Forward/center Mike Muscala was assigned to the G League for a second stint as he works toward a return after missing 25 games with a left ankle sprain. The return of the depth and flexibility can only help.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Sports

No surprise this night, Georgia Tech loses ugly to Virginia
No surprise this night, Georgia Tech loses ugly to Virginia
It being now impossible to locally source football, this should be the time to transition to some college basketball, if anyone out there still has the appetite. Uh, maybe you’ll want to wait just a few more days.   Thursday night was not the occasion to start shopping for a late winter alternative because Virginia was in town. This...
Atlanta United’s historic first season capped as Darren Eales named MLS Executive of the Year
Atlanta United’s historic first season capped as Darren Eales named MLS Executive of the Year

Atlanta United President Darren Eales was named the MLS Executive of the Year on Thursday, reflecting the expansion team’s success on and off the field in its first season.  “It’s a big thank you for the work that all of our staff has done in putting together Atlanta United, what Arthur (Blank) has done as an owner in terms of...
What Tim Miles said after Nebraska’s 72-52 win over Michigan
What Tim Miles said after Nebraska’s 72-52 win over Michigan

Nebraska basketball entered Thursday night with a 13-7 overall record and a 4-3 record in Big Ten play. After the game against Michigan — which resulted in a 20-point victory for the Cornhuskers — the team is now 5-3 in the Big Ten standings. Michigan is currently ranked at No. 23 in the country according to the latest AP Poll...
Oregon falls 75-70 at home to USC: What we learned
Oregon falls 75-70 at home to USC: What we learned

It’s looking more and more likely that Oregon will be going from the Final Four to the NIT. Thursday’s 75-70 home loss to USC dropped the Ducks to 12-7 overall and 2-4 in Pac-12 play, already losing more games than all of last season. Here’s what we learned from a game Oregon had to win to keep itself in contention for...
What John Beilein said after Michigan’s 72-52 loss to Nebraska
What John Beilein said after Michigan’s 72-52 loss to Nebraska

Michigan basketball entered Thursday with a 16-4 overall record and a 4-2 record in Big Ten conference play. The Wolverines are currently ranked No. 23 in the latest AP Poll. On Thursday night, at Nebraska, the Wolverines lost to the Cornhuskers, 72-52. Nebraska’s James Palmer Jr. led all scorers with 19. Charles Matthews...
More Stories