Just 24 hours after a nail-biting victory in Detroit over the Pistons, the Wizards fought hard in another intense matchup. Kristaps Porzingis dropped a career-high 43 points, but the Wizards couldn't keep up with the Hawks down the stretch. Final score: Hawks 122, Wizards 120.
With both teams battling for playoff positioning and the Hawks in town for a two-game mini-series, this game had a playoff feel to it, and it was evident right from the opening horn. The energy was high, the crowd was engaged, and the pace was fast. Both teams were getting up and down in a hurry.
For the Hawks, Trae Young was in a groove early. He connected on his first five shots and dished out three assists in the opening eight minutes of the game. On the Wizards' side, it was Bradley Beal and Porzingis who set the tone early. Beal was attacking right from the jump and dropped eight points and two assists in the first frame. Porzingis was right there with him, scoring 10 points of his own.
Then, in the second quarter, Kyle Kuzma got himself going, getting downhill and finishing through contact possession after possession after possession. The Wizards took a 61-58 lead at the half behind 22 points from Porzingis and 13 apiece from Beal and Kuzma.
The second half was full of runs. Washington brought the energy to start the period and capped it off with a 16-4 run to take a 15-point lead midway through the quarter. The Hawks responded nicely, chipping away for a few minutes before going on a 14-0 run of their own over a 4:30 span ranging from the end of the third quarter to the beginning of the fourth.
From that point on, it was a back-and-forth game. Young was trading buckets with the Wizards' stars down the stretch, but a couple of untimely misses and turnovers in the final minutes gave the Hawks the edge and a two-point victory.
Despite the tough loss, the Wizards received nice individual performances from Beal, Kuzma, and Porzingis. Beal scored 24 points and dished out eight assists. Kuzma notched a 25-10-6 line on 10-of-15 shooting from the field. And Porzingis lit the nets on fire, pouring in a career-high 43 points on a remarkably efficient 17-of-22 shooting from the field and 7-of-10 shooting from deep. He also added five rebounds and five assists.
"I thought we fought," said Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. "We were competitive... Obviously, the turnovers. We gotta cut those down. Cut down on some of the mental errors. Minimize those stretches where I thought we got a little complacent. I think that's the next step for us maturity-wise."
The Wizards will have a chance to settle the score on Friday night when the Hawks come to Capital One Arena for a rematch.