Schroder carries Hawks past Wizards
ATLANTA — For the first time this season, the Atlanta Hawks are on a winning streak, and they can thank Dennis Schroder.
The guard erupted for 16 of his 21 points in the second half, leading the Hawks to a 113-99 win over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night at Philips Arena.
It wasn’t all Schroder, though, as Atlanta’s bench and supporting cast weighed heavily in the win.
Ersan Ilyasova chipped in with 20 points while Marco Belinelli helped with 19 off the bench for Atlanta. However, Hawks rookie John Collins also gets credit for starting the late-game spurt that clinched Atlanta’s second victory in a row.
Collins was one of several bench players whom Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer lauded when assessing the come-from-behind win over the Wizards. Collins scored just eight points on 2-of-5 shooting, but the first of his buckets — a tip-in at the third-quarter buzzer — gave the Hawks a 78-76 lead.
From there, Atlanta never looked back.
“I thought just to have a little bit of confidence going into the fourth quarter, and to have a little bit of a lead,” Budenholzer said. “Again, that bench group had been so good in the first half and they did it again in the third quarter. They were able to get us a lead and a little bit of momentum, just positive energy. It seemed like it helped propel us.”
Ilyasova also provided late-game heroics for the Hawks, scoring 11 of his 20 in the fourth quarter to ensure there would be no collapse.
“It was experience,” Ilyasova said. “We’ve been in many, many games in these situations. It all comes with defensive stops. When you play against a team like Washington, Bradley Beal and John Wall get in transition. We just tried to get back in front of them. I think we did a really good job just being in front of them for 48 minutes.”
Beal led the Wizards with 20 points, and Markieff Morris scored 18. Wall had 10 points and 11 rebounds in the loss. Although the Wizards had six players in double figures, Washington coach Scott Brooks lamented the fact that his key players couldn’t get untracked against Atlanta’s defense down the stretch.
“Well, a couple of times, we were up 10 and nine, and then we relaxed and gave them opportunities to get back in the game and close out that first half,” Brooks said. “Then at the end of the fourth, we struggled. We couldn’t get any stops. We were taking bad shots and we gave them hope. Once that happened, we couldn’t turn it off.”
In a fairly close game that saw multiple lead changes and three ties in the third quarter alone, that last-second score from Collins seemed to re-ignite the Hawks in the final quarter.
Belinelli and Kent Bazemore both drained 3-pointers early in the fourth to help the Hawks build a six-point advantage, and Ilyasova buried a 3-pointer at the 5:09 mark for a 98-89 lead.
Atlanta stayed in attack mode, stretching its lead to as much as 18 points.
“They were making shots,” Brooks said. “They were playing at a higher speed than us.”
Washington (19-16) got off to a fast start in the first quarter, receiving major production from Otto Porter and Morris, who combined for 20 of the Wizards’ 29 first-quarter points. Washington used back-to-back buckets from Morris — a 3-pointer and a slam dunk from a Wall alley-oop — to spark an 11-1 run that quickly put the Wizards ahead 17-5.
The Hawks were energized by Belinelli coming off the bench with three straight buckets, including a pair of 3-pointer, the latter of which tied the score at 25 with under a minute left in the first quarter.
Washington’s Jodie Meeks and Atlanta’s Isaiah Taylor traded buckets in the final 45 seconds as the two squads ended the first quarter deadlocked at 29-29. Belinelli continued his hot shooting in the second quarter by scoring Atlanta’s first points on a floater in the lane.
Atlanta had several chances to take its first lead early in the second, but a pair of missed 3-pointers from the corner by Malcolm Delaney and Tyler Cavanaugh kept Washington with a one point lead.
A mid-range jumper and three free throws on consecutive possessions by Meeks provided Washington with a 39-33 with just under eight minutes before halftime.
After an Ilyasova 3-pointer and alley-oop dunk from Schroder on consecutive possessions cut the Hawks’ deficit back to one, Mike Scott’s jumper, Kelly Oubre’s corner 3-pointer and a 2-point bucket by Porter stretched Washington’s lead to its largest at 51-42 with 4:46 left before halftime.
The Wizards staved off another Atlanta surge to take a 57-55 lead into halftime.
In the third quarter, Belinelli gave the Hawks their first lead of the game at 67-66 when he drained three free throws after getting fouled on a 3-point attempt. However, it was a short-lived lead as Beal buried a 3-pointer 15 seconds later to put the Wizards back on top before Collins’ sank his clutch bucket.
The fourth-quarter flip of fortunes left Washington players searching for answers just two days removed from a come-from-behind win at Boston on Christmas Day.
“We have to come out with the same energy as for the Boston games,” Scott said. “Even Cleveland. We played Cleveland tough, but even though Atlanta is struggling, it’s still the NBA. It’s still NBA players. You can’t take any team lightly.”
NOTES: Atlanta’s C Dewayne Dedmon was cleared to resume on-court activities in his recovery from a stress reaction in his left leg. ... Atlanta G Dennis Schroder didn’t make his first field goal until the 7:01 mark of the second quarter. ... Washington plays host to the Houston Rockets on Friday. ... The Hawks visit the Toronto Raptors on Friday.