The Washington Post

Wizards falter late, lose again to Atlanta



The Washington Wizards had their chances Friday night against Atlanta at Capital One Arena. But their defense faltered, their offense wasn’t sharp in the clutch, and they lost, 114-107, dropping their second game to the Hawks in three days.

It was the Wizards’ fourth loss in five games and left them at 31-36, clinging to the 10th spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

“It sucks to be on this end of the result,” Kristaps Porzingis said. “Don’t have much else to say, honestly. We just — we lost another one. Close one. Probably hurts more than a loss by 10 points, maybe.”

For a team that claims to have its sights on the postseason, Washington appeared tired and disengaged at times. The Wizards shot well (48.9 percent), but they struggled on the offensive glass, and their attack lacked its usual verve. They had their chances but simply couldn’t capitalize, especially after halftime.

The most damning example was their final possession of any consequenc­e — they came out of a timeout trailing by three with 19 seconds to play. Kyle Kuzma cleared space for Bradley Beal to drive, but the guard missed a layup, the team couldn’t corral the rebound, and Beal fouled Dejounte Murray, who made both free throws to seal the loss.

“We gave ourselves a chance by climbing back into it . . . couldn’t capitalize,” Wizards Coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “Two open threes, one we missed, one I think was out of bounds. Missed a finish in the paint, missed a finish or two. . . . Just couldn’t capitalize.”

Beal led five scorers in double figures with 27 points and had six rebounds and five assists. Porzingis had 22 points and nine rebounds, and Kuzma had 17 points and five rebounds.

Trae Young led the Hawks (34-33) with 28 points.

Opportunit­ies presented themselves to the Wizards throughout the second half, missed chances that led to a glum postgame locker room.

The Hawks ended the third quarter on an 18-6 run to take a 10-point lead that Washington whittled to six thanks to two sharp steals and two drawn fouls — but defense failed the Wizards. Atlanta rattled off an 11-5 run in the fourth quarter to crank the lead right back up.

Trailing by five with just under three minutes to play, the Wizards won a pivotal challenge and regained possession only for one corner three-pointer from Kuzma to bounce out. He stepped out of bounds on the next three-point attempt, then missed one of two free throws after he was fouled.

Three-pointers were an issue — the Hawks had 15 to Washington’s seven, but that was the only glaring disparity on paper. The issue lies outside of the box score and in the Wizards’ hunger, Beal said.

“I’m always looking at myself in the mirror and seeing what I can do better,” Beal said. “It’s never a pointing-finger situation; it’s never one individual’s fault. We all can be better; we all can give a little bit more. That’s just what it comes down to: Who wants it the most? Atlanta’s in the same boat we’re in; they’re competing, scratching, trying to stay alive. . . . They just wanted it a little bit more than us.”

Here’s what else to know about the Wizards’ loss:

Another close one

The Wizards’ past five games have all been decided by seven points or fewer. Their win over Detroit on Tuesday and loss to Atlanta on Wednesday were by two points each.

“It’s just finishing games,” Kuzma said of the close losses. “We haven’t finished.”

Morris starts again

Unseld put point guard Monte Morris back in the starting lineup one game after he returned to the court following a bout with lower-back soreness.

Guard Delon Wright was a solid starter in his stead, and Unseld has said he felt their styles were interchang­eable enough that the offense didn’t significan­tly change when Wright played in the opening group. The Wizards went 3-4 with Wright as a starter, but they have long preferred Wright to come off the bench for the added dynamism he brings with his defense.

Wright had 10 points, five assists and three steals in his return to the bench.

Turnover trouble

Turnovers again hampered the Wizards. They had 15 turnovers that led to 16 Atlanta points compared with 14 Hawks turnovers that led to 14 Washington points. The Wizards entered Friday averaging 14.3 turnovers, 17th in the NBA.

 ?? Jonathan NEWTON/THE Washington POST ?? Bradley Beal, left, had 27 points but missed a layup and fouled Dejounte Murray, right, near the end of the game to seal the Wizards’ loss.
Jonathan NEWTON/THE Washington POST Bradley Beal, left, had 27 points but missed a layup and fouled Dejounte Murray, right, near the end of the game to seal the Wizards’ loss.

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