Apr 22, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) drives against Washington Wizards forward Jason Smith (14) in the fourth quarter of game three of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena. The Hawks won 116-98. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
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The Atlanta Hawks failed to stave off elimination Friday night. Here are a few key aspects that led to their elimination in Game 6.
Facing elimination for the first time this season, the Atlanta Hawks failed to find a way to force a Game 7, falling 115-99 to the Washington Wizards in Game 6.
At no point during the 48-minute contest did the Hawks have the lead, as an Otto Porter Jr. jumper less than four minutes into the game snapped a tie at 10 and gave Washington an advantage it never let slip away.
Only six points separated the two teams in the series, but Friday’s 16-point defeat ended the season, even after the team staged an incredible comeback to make it a one-possession game in the fourth quarter.
Atlanta received an impressive outing from All-Star forward Paul Millsap, as he delivered 31 points on 13-of-23 shooting, 10 rebounds, seven assists, four steals and a block. His play was so valuable for the Hawks that he spent just two minutes on the bench.
For the second straight contest, point guard Dennis Schroder totaled more than 25 points and 10 assists, becoming the first postseason performer in Hawks history to accomplish the feat.
Their exceptional individual efforts weren’t enough to topple Washington in the series.
Several factors went into the Hawks being eliminated from postseason contention Friday night. Let’s breakdown five aspects the team couldn’t overcome during a 115-99 defeat.
Apr 28, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) attempts a shot against Atlanta Hawks center Dwight Howard (8) in the first quarter in game six of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Defense Failed To Close Out Key Possessions
Simply put, the Atlanta Hawks couldn’t deter their opponents from missing enough shots in Game 6.
Washington converted 53.8 percent of its attempts from the field, hit 41.7 percent of its shots from three-point range and even knocked down 84 percent of its free throws. Both teams attempted 78 shots on the night, only the Wizards were more efficient, converting five additional free throws and field goals, along with one more three-pointer.
Only one starter, center Marcin Gortat, failed to shoot above 50 percent in the game, while the starting lineup for Washington totaled more points (100) than the entire Atlanta roster Friday night.
The true shooting percentage of 64.6 percent the Wizards posted was by far its best mark of the series, as it closed out with an average of 54.8 percent — an impressive figure considering Atlanta’s defensive prowess.
Entering the 2017 NBA Playoffs, the Hawks posted the fourth-best defensive rating in the league at 105.8 points allowed per 100 possessions.
The figure was nearly identical during the six-game series against Washington, as the Hawks closed out the set with a 106 rating in defensive efficiency, an average total in postseason play, as points become more scarce.
Apr 28, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Dennis Schroder (17) passes out of the defense of Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) in the first quarter in game six of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Ball Security A Major Issue
The Atlanta Hawks dug themselves into a 19-point halftime deficit largely because of their sloppy play. Washington forced 15 first half turnovers with 11 steals, leading to 20 points — a trend that continued for the rest of the night.
Nearly a quarter of the points scored by the Wizards on the night came off fast breaks, as they totaled 28 points in transition.
Atlanta had 93 turnovers in the series, an average of 15.5 per game, nearly identical to its regular seaosn average of 15.2 per game. The Hawks have turned the ball over more frequently than any other team in the 2017 playoffs.
The 16 steals Washington totaled Friday night were the most any team has registered during the playoffs, leading to a total of 22 turnovers from the Hawks.
Three different Atlanta players turned the ball over five or more times in Game 6, while five players totaled 10 or more turnovers during the six-game slate.
Turnovers were a major factor throughout the series. In the two victories for the Hawks, they averaged 11.5 turnovers per game, but in the four losses, 17.5 turnovers. Those turnovers enabled John Wall to score 8.0 points per game in transition, the most of any player in the postseason so far.
Apr 28, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) blocks a layup by Atlanta Hawks guard Dennis Schroder (17) in the fourth quarter of game six of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
No Answers For John Wall
One play was particularly telling for the Atlanta Hawks early in the fourth quarter. Hawks point guard Dennis Schroder had an opportunity to slice the Washington advantage down to one point by simply closing out a fast break with a finger roll layup.
Only before he elevated, Schroder looked over his back shoulder, knowing John Wall was chasing him down, as his rejection in Game 1 helped close out the game.
Wall’s defense provided a similar impact Friday night, as his defensive efforts ended Atlanta’s comeback attempt.
John Wall with the nasty chase down block on Dennis Schroeder!
The block sparked a fast break chance for Washington, with Wall converting a difficult layup and drawing the foul. Wall finished the fourth quarter with 19 points, capping the most impressive playoff outing of his career.
Just about every shot from Wall seemed to fall through the net. The 6-foot-4 guard converted 16-of-25 shot attempts and sank 9-of-10 free throws.
The four-time All-Star posted a playoff career-high 42 points to go along with eight assists, four steals and two blocks.
Apr 28, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) celebrates in the closing minutes of their game against the Atlanta Hawks in game six of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Shooting Guard Disparity Too Wide
Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer altered his starting lineup for the playoff series, opting to place rookie Taurean Prince at small forward for a defensive impact and Tim Hardaway Jr. at shooting guard to provide an offensive spark.
The addition of Hardaway Jr. failed to produce the desired results, as he averaged 12.8 points per game and struggled to make shots. Hardaway Jr. shot just 32.9 percent from the field and 26.4 percent from three-point range.
The shooting guard disparity was clearly evident Friday night, as Beal totaled 31 points, the inverse of Hardaway Jr., who had 13.
In five of the six games, Beal scored 10 or more points than Hardaway Jr., as he posted 25.8 points per game and leads all postseason performers with 53 made shots from three-point range and 14 steals.
In Game 6, Beal combined with Wall to make their case as one of the most prolific backcourt pairings in the league. The duo of Beal and Wall combined to score 73 points, the most they have ever scored together during their five-year stint in Washington.
Wall (42 points) and Beal (31) became the first pair of teammates to simultaneously post a 40-point and 30-point outing to close out a series since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen achieved the feat when knocking out Miami in the opening round of the 1992 NBA Playoffs.
Hardaway Jr. totaled 77 points in the series, 78 fewer than the 155 points Bradley Beal posted for Washington during the six games. The scoring differential was a huge factor considering the Wizards only totaled six more points in the opening round.
Apr 22, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Jose Calderon (13) attempts a shot in the third quarter of their game against the Washington Wizards of game three of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena. The Hawks won 116-98. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Massive Comeback Effort Falls Short
On the first possession of the second half, the Atlanta Hawks surrendered a three-pointer to Otto Porter Jr., providing Washington with a 22-point advantage.
With the offense in need of a spark, the trio of Paul Millsap, Dennis Schroder and Tim Hardaway Jr. staged a rally in the third quarter, as the Hawks scored 36 points during the 12-minute period for their second highest point total of the series.
All 36 points were scored by the three players — Schroder (14), Hardaway Jr. (11) and Millsap (11) — while Taurean Prince was the only other player to even attempt a shot in the quarter.
The efforts of Hardaway Jr., Millsap and Schroder trimmed the Wizards lead down to seven points entering the fourth quarter. A three-pointer from Jose Calderon three minutes into the fourth quarter made it a 93-90 contest, until Wall’s block shifted the momentum back to Washington’s favor.