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How a late-game meltdown cost the Hawks a chance to steal a victory

Five observations from the Hawks’ 109-101 loss to the Wizards in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference first-round playoff series.

1. They Hawks dug themselves out of a double-digit hole in the second half with a strong third quarter. They played a close back-and-forth game and led by three points, 94-91, with 5:05 remaining.

And then the offense turned ugly.

In the next four and a half minutes, they managed just four points while committing three turnovers and had a shot blocked. The Wizards’ 16-4 run ended the game.

“We could have gotten that game,” Dennis Schroder said. “We were right there. Down the stretch, in crunch time, we had a few turnovers and didn’t get take good shots. We have to be better in crunch time. Get an open shot at least.”

2. Oh, those turnovers. The Hawks finished the game with 18 that led to 23 points for the Wizards. They had six turnovers that led to 12 points in the fourth quarter alone.

“Turnovers killed us,” Paul Millsap said. “We didn’t execute well. We let them play their style of game. When we do that, they obviously hurt us getting up and down the court. We have to do a better job of taking care of the ball, especially in the fourth quarter.”

In the first two games of the series, the Hawks have committed 39 turnovers and only three have come from the point guard Schroder.

“We had a couple turnovers but it was still a very close game,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said of the late miscues. “We had some opportunities. We need to get better looks at the basket. Sometimes it was leading to easy baskets for them. I think we have to execute better offensively.”

3. It wasn’t quite Mixed Martial Arts but it was physical.

The game featured a combined 55 fouls. The Wizards had to deal with foul trouble to Markieff Morris (five), Jason Smith (five), Otto Porter Jr. (four) and Kelly Oubre Jr. (four).

Millsap complained following Game 1 that the Wizards were getting away with physical fouls he likened to MMA.

“I liked it,” Millsap said of the physical nature of Game 2.

As for the large number of fouls, Millsap thought the game was called correctly.

“I felt like they called the game the way it was,” he said. “There were fouls out there and they called it. It was pretty balanced game. A very physical game. They did a good job tonight.”

4. The Hawks’ 3-point shooting has been an issue in the series. They were 4 of 20 in Game 2. They were 7 of 25 in Game 1. That’s not good.

“They are doing a better job of guarding us,” Millsap said. “Simple as that. They are taking away our 3-point shooters. They are not helping as much. I think that’s why Dennis was able to get to the basket so much. Eventually, we are going to need that. We are going to have to loosen them up.”

Tim Hardaway Jr was 2 of 4 from long range after going 0 of 6 in Game 1. Schroder was just 1 of 8 on Wednesday. The Wizards went under on the pick-and-roll for much of the game to give Schroder the outside look. He and his teammates will need to make them going forward.

“I think both teams are trying to take the 3-point line away from each other,” Budenholzer said. “We’ve got to find a way to get some and when we do get some, make them. No matter who it is. When we are teeing up 3’s and getting good looks it has a big impact on the game if we can make a couple of them.”

5. The Hawks again used a small lineup to improve their offensive production.

It proved successful late in the game before the fourth-quarter meltdown.

The Hawks were aided by the Wizards’ foul trouble but at times used Millsap at center in the fourth quarter.

“It’s simple,” Millsap said. “Our small ball is better than theirs. We think we play small ball better than anybody in the league. That is one of our better lineups. We can push the tempo. Get up and down the court. I think we have taken advantage of that.”

Dwight Howard did not play in the fourth quarter and totaled 20 minutes. Mike Muscala played 23 minutes.

“It spreads the court more,” Budenholzer said. “It gets more ball-handlers, more guys who can get to the paint.”

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