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Wizards lament missed opportunity in critical loss to Hawks

Wizards lament missed opportunity in critical loss to Hawks originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

WASHINGTON — The Wizards have expressed urgency regarding their postseason race outwardly in interviews, but that mindset was not matched with how they played on Wednesday night in a loss to the Atlanta Hawks. They made far too many mistakes to win a close game against a team just ahead of them in the standings.

This was a game the Wizards led by 15 points in the second half. They had the lead with less than three minutes to go. For the game, they shot 56.6% from the field and 41.4% from long range.

But 19 turnovers, which led to 20 points for the Hawks, made the difference and that included some ill-timed miscues late in the fourth quarter.

“There was a variety of turnovers. I thought that was the biggest hurdle for us tonight,” head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said.

The two most glaring mistakes were a lost ball turnover by Deni Avdija with 27 seconds left and a trip by Bradley Beal with 16 seconds on the clock. The Wizards were down two when Avdija had the ball stripped under the basket and four when Beal shuffled his feet.

Beal said his was a result of indecisiveness. He had the ball in range for a long two, but wanted to go for the more efficient 3-pointer.

He tried a step-back and just didn’t execute.

“I guess I forgot to dribble. I don’t know,” he said.

The Wizards also missed a series of shots they felt they should have made in the fourth quarter against Atlanta. Beal missed a free throw with 52 seconds left with the Wizards down by three. He then stole the ball from Trae Young, only to have his contested layup attempt rim out on the other end.

While Kristaps Porzingis went 5-for-5 in the fourth quarter, the rest of the Wizards shot 3-for-13. Beal was 1-for-6 in the final frame. The team also had five turnovers, which Atlanta turned into eight points.

They just didn’t take care of the little things when it mattered most.

“We know this is gut-check time at this time of year. We know this is like a mini-playoff series for us,” Beal said.

“They’re competing just like we are for the spot. We’ve just gotta understand what’s at stake, understand that we can move ahead of them if we win. But we’ve gotta be locked into that a lot better. It starts with me.”

What Wednesday amounted to was a missed opportunity. Any game the Wizards lead by 15 points in the second half they should win, especially one that would have tied them with the Hawks for the eighth-best record in the East.

Instead, a one-game gap in the standings between Washington and Atlanta is now two. The Wizards also remain one game back from No. 9 Toronto.

The good news is that the Wizards get another chance to play the Hawks on Friday in Washington in the second game of a two-game mini-series. They have an opportunity to bounce back, but will have to do a better job of rising to the occasion in order to do so.