ATLANTA — The final statlines weren’t THAT different: 44.3 percent shooting for the Wizards, 41 percent for the Hawks 47 rebounds for the Hawks, 40 for the Wizards, 19 asssits for the Wizards, 18 for the Hawks, 15 turnovers for the Wizards, 13 turnovers for the Hawks.
But free throws? There’s the difference. A 31-for-34 performance from the charity stripe for Atlanta, and 14-for-22 showing for the Wizards.
That proved the advantage the Hawks needed to ensure a victory over the Wizards tonight at Philips Arena.
“They got to the free throw line,” Gilbert Arenas said. “Thats where the game was won. They got to the free throw line. Everytime we decided to turn it up, and we did, they got to the free throw line.”
Said Brendan Haywood: “If you look at the stats, we still played a good game. We limited Joe Johnson’s opportunities, we just turned the ball over too much and gave them too many free throw opportunities.”
Overall, I don’t think this was too alarming a performance the Wizards put on, especially considering they had to do much of it without caron Butler. As they continue to install more of Flip’s system, and continue to try to figure their roles, games like this are probably more likely than the one we saw Tuesday in Dallas.
Even Flip Saunders wasn’t overly disappointed over the loss, believing that his player did a lot right.
“We lost a lot at the free throw line tonight. You get outscored by 17 at the free throw line, that’s tough to deal with,” Flip said. “It’s a process. We kept on competing. I think defensively there were some things we’ve got to get better with as far as not fouling. The only thing was we didn’t try to take total control of the tempo. That’s something we needed to do offensively. We didn’t exert our well offensively like we need to do against good teams, especially on the road.”
The Wizards got off to a promising start, but that 15-5 lead didn’t give Saunders a confident feeling.
“When we jumped out to a 10-point lead in the first quarter, it looked like it was going too easy,” he said. “Unfortunately, we started turning the ball over and taking quick shots. They began to control the game in the second quarter when they locked in defensively. However, I think our turnovers were the deciding factor tonight.”
Gil had seven of the Wizards 15 turnovers, and he said it came as a result of not being aggressive enough, not handling the ball well and not getting a good feel for the tempo of the game.
“When I got four quick turnovers, I stopped being aggressive, worrying about how many turnovers I get,” said Arenas, who scored 23 points on 9-for-22 shooting and had seven turnovers and four assists. “You just can’t play the game like that. [I was] just not handling the ball, not getting a feel for it.”
Arenas said the Wizards shouldn’t beat themselves up over the loss, however.
“It’s the NBA, you’re not going to win every game, you’re not going to lose every game. You just want to win more than you lose. That’s the point of the game. … We’re happy. We did what we did. Some times you’re going to win, some times you’re going to lose. But we did what we should have done.”
Arenas then listed holding Atlanta to 41 percent shooting from the field and 25 percent from the arc as positives, but again pointed out the free throw differential.
“In the NBA and you shoot 17 more free throws than the other team, then you should win. And they did,” he said.
Flip was pleased with what he got out of JaVale McGee tonight. The coach had hoped to use McGee in certain situations to spark his team with his energy and athleticism, and soon after he took the court, McGee was providing fireworks with a dunk here, a block there. In 10 minutes, he had seven points, two rebounds and two blocks.
His performance will continue to earn him increased playing time, Saunders said.
“JaVale played like he did in practice, so he’ll continue to get more playing time,” Flip said. “He played well. We played him until he couldn’t get any more oxygen out of the arena, so we took him out of the game. But he did a nice job.”
It was another strong night for 7-Day Dray, as Andray Blatche had 13 points and six rebounds off the bench. Brendan Haywood was active with 19 points and nine rebounds.
Mike Miller had 10 rebounds to go with five assists and two steals and seven points. The Wizards will need more out of him offensively, though, especially if Butler will be out for a while.
Saunders said tonight that the guard is still trying to find his way in the system and with his new teammates, and that Miller probably is being too unselfish, but that he expects him to settle in soon.
The Wizards will take on the New Jersey Nets tomorrow at Verizon Center.