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Wizards look to damage Hawks’ play-in seeding

Sportsnaut
Apr 5, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (11) waits for the play to begin during the fourth quarter against the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks will get a chance to gain ground in their pursuit of a home-court advantage in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament when they host the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.

The Hawks (41-38) failed to take advantage of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ loss to the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night, blowing a late lead in a 118-108 road setback against the Toronto Raptors.

The result snapped Atlanta’s five-game winning streak and left the Hawks 1 1/2 games behind the currently seventh-seeded Cavaliers (43-37). Atlanta fell into a tie with the Brooklyn Nets (41-38) for the eighth position.

Cleveland is idle on Wednesday night.

The Charlotte Hornets (40-39) will be the other club in the four-team play-in tournament.

Atlanta and Washington will face off on the second night of a back-to-back set. The Hawks will have to respond well from an exhausting effort in which five players were on the court 31 or more minutes, as well as a long flight back to Atlanta from Toronto.

Trae Young was one of the overworked Hawks in the defeat, going 37 minutes, during which he put up 26 points and 15 assists.

“Obviously we wish we were higher in the standings, but we’re not,” the standout guard said postgame. “We’ve got to take care of business with what’s ahead of us.”

Young hasn’t been at his best in three previous meetings with the Wizards this season. He was held to 15 points in an October loss before averaging 25.5 points, but shooting just a combined 13-for-38, in a pair of wins.

Atlanta’s De’Andre Hunter was a difference-maker in the most recent meeting with Washington, pouring in 26 points in a 117-114 road win on March 4. Young made four straight free throws in the final 13 seconds to ice the victory.

Hawks center Clint Capela had double-doubles in the two wins.

The Wizards (35-44), who have been eliminated from playoff contention, have enjoyed playing the role of spoiler in two of their past three games, stunning the Dallas Mavericks 135-103 in Washington on Friday and the Minnesota Timberwolves 132-114 in Minneapolis on Tuesday.

Balanced scoring in balanced playing time led to the victory at Minnesota, with all eight players who hit the court for the Wizards getting at least 20 minutes of action and scoring at least eight points.

Kristaps Porzingis, the most likely of the Wizards to get rested on the second night of the back-to-back, led the way with 25 points. He had 24 points in the win over his former team, the Mavericks.

Following the Tuesday game, Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. credited the contribution of Rui Hachimura, who had gone scoreless in 24 minutes during a Sunday loss at Boston.

“It was a good sign to see,” Unseld said of Hachimura’s 8-for-15, 21-point night against the Timberwolves. “It takes a level of maturity when you have a tough night to put it aside and refocus with a fresh start.”

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who had 35 points in the Dallas game, contributed 21 points to Washington’s win over Atlanta in October. He followed that with 28 in the loss to the Hawks last month.

–Field Level Media