Wash­ing­ton starts well, falls apart in 4th quar­ter

Baltimore Sun - - NHL NBA - By Candace Buck­ner

AT­LANTA — The Wash­ing­ton Wiz­ards played the stooge Thurs­day night for At­lanta’s sea­son-open­ing party.

They helped cen­ter Dwight Howard write his name into the Hawks’ his­tor­i­cal records. Also by the fourth quar­ter, their woe­ful ef­fort on de­fense pro­vided plenty of ap­plause points for the an­nounced sold-out crowd at Philips Arena.

Though Wash­ing­ton did just enough for long enough to cre­ate three quar­ters of a close game, the clutch-time mo­ments of the114-99 loss re­vealed a team that’s still try­ing to adapt to the new era.

“De­fen­sively, we have to do a bet­ter job of con­tain­ing the bas­ket­ball and then box­ing out,” new coach Scott Brooks said. “I think we did a de­cent job of mak­ing them miss shots, but [there were] too many of­fen­sive re­bounds.”

In his Hawks de­but, Howard pulled down 19 re­bounds, tied for third­most in fran­chise his­tory since the team moved to At­lanta. Howard’s ef­fort also beat the com­bined to­tal of the Wiz­ards’ front­court: Marcin Gor­tat had 11 while the team’s lead­ing scorer, Marki­eff Mor­ris, fin­ished with four.

Still, Wash­ing­ton only trailed 81-80 en­ter­ing the fourth. A good de­fen­sive show­ing could have pulled the Wiz­ards to a win, but they cap­sized un­der a 24-6 fourth-quar­ter run.

“I don’t want to say the word I want to say to get fined,” John Wall said, “but yeah, I’m very up­set.”

Wall was re­fer­ring to the team’s de­fen­sive ef­fort, but he also flashed anger after Kent Bazemore’s fla­grant-1 foul on an at­tempted dunk in the third quar­ter.

Wall, who still has to get his con­di­tion­ing back after off­sea­son knee surgery, matched the long­est streak of missed field goals to start a game in his ca­reer (nine). Also, Wall slipped twice while drib­bling in a half-court set and his jumper was miss­ing. Wall fin­ished with 12 points (3-for-15) and 10 as­sists.

“I got shots that I wanted. I just missed them,” Wall said.

KEVIN C. COX/GETTY IM­AGES

The Wiz­ards’ John Wall drives against the Hawks’ Paul Mill­sap. Wall missed12 of 15 shots and fin­ished with 12 points.

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