Just over a quarter of the way into the new season, it may be hard to see how a Tuesday night matchup between a playoff contender and a guaranteed lottery ball hopeful can provide much in the way of lessons. Rest assured, though, last night’s Hawks and Wizards contest did just that.
It would be harder to find two teams further apart in their current aspirations. While Atlanta is doing their best to figure out how they’ll take that next step and become a title contender, the Wizards are scratching and clawing to figure out how they can avoid being the most pathetic NBA team to ever take a professional basketball court.
The result, however, a 100-95 Atlanta victory in overtime, tells us another story of just how close these two teams really are. Only four of Washington’s 19 losses have been by 10 points or more this season and they have lost all four overtime contests they’ve gone into. Perhaps the Wizards aren’t as bad as their record says, but what did we learn about these teams from this game? Here are five things to keep in mind as the season progresses.
- Louis Williams deserves to start before Devin Harris or Jeff Teague.
Teague and Harris don’t usually combine for a lot of points. Harris is a decent passer but isn’t showing it much in Atlanta averaging just over 2 assists per game. Teague is quick and athletic, but his vision, decision making and ability to share the ball is questionable at best. His 13 points and 6 assists on Tuesday are right in line with his unimpressive season averages.
Williams has emerged as Atlanta’s biggest threat off the bench averaging 14 points and 3.3. assists per game in far less minutes than Teague. In Tuesday’s win, he led the Hawks with 24 points playing the role of the go-to guy down the stretch.
- The Wizards front court keeps them in games, but the back court will win a lot more when John Wall returns.
As of right now, the Wizards have only Jordan Crawford to feature as a prominent scorer and go-to guy down the stretch in games. That will change once Wall comes back and takes the reigns of this offense. It will also allow Crawford to return to playing the two guard position where he is more comfortable and allow him to create more one-on-one play where he is at his best. At that point, the Wizards back court will become one of the most threatening young duos around.
- The Hawks have a long way to go to be a championship contender.
Atlanta is out to prove something this season, but their consistency leaves a lot to be desired. The lowly Wizards matched the Hawks in rebounding, forced 15 turnovers and clearly read their scouting reports as they chose to send Atlanta to the line 34 times where the Hawks shot 67 percent. Larry Drew’s team had won five out of six before losing to Golden State last Saturday and now they nearly started a losing streak against Washington.
Despite having Josh Smith and Al Horford, the Hawks points in the paint numbers are 14th in the league, something they’ll have to look to improve if they’re going to make a serious playoff push.
- Jordan Crawford is by far the Wizards most dynamic player.
Finishing with 27 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds for the second triple-double of his career, Crawford carried the Wizards in this game, a role he is becoming accustomed to as he has averaged 22 points when Washington wins. For the season, he is leading the team in both scoring and assists, but pressure to do the latter will ease when Wall returns, allowing Crawford to focus on other things.
- Atlanta is just good enough against teams they should beat.
In any case, the Hawks did manage the victory giving them a record of 10-1 against teams that currently sit below the .500 mark. But, when faced with a team of a playoff caliber, the Hawks are 5-6. While talent is enough to win a lot of regular season games, it’s not enough to do much in the postseason. Right now, the Hawks are reliant on the talent of Al Horford, Josh Smith and some of their other playmakers in the back court, but Atlanta will have to do better coming together as a team in order to avoid more close calls like Tuesday and another early exit from the postseason.