Washington– The Hawks never really did lock down on D. That might sound harsh considering the Wizards scored 17 in the final quarter but they missed a few open shots from my perspective. At one point I looked out there and Jamal seemed to be the only guy really getting after it defensively.
– But the Hawks pulled out a road win over a hot team (hey, hot by Washington’s standard), and that’s got to be the bottom line no matter how they looked doing it. The Hawks play a tough game at Milwaukee on Monday and carrying an eight-game road losing streak into the playoffs would have been a big burden.
– The Hawks improved to 6-8 in road games since the All-Star break when they have a lead or tie in the final period. “We’ve played well enough on the road to win but little things have been hurting us,” Woody said. “Tonight we buckled down when we had to. That’s how we did it early in the year. We’ve got to get back to that heading into the playoffs.”
– Crawford’s 28 points included 13 after halftime. The Wiz was up 64-58 when Jamal scored 11 points over the final seven minutes of the period to tie it at 78-78. Without that burst, the Hawks might have been in trouble.
– “It just felt like we were in a rut,” he said. “That’s understandable because we are on a back-to-back and we got in late. We were looking for any kind of energy, so I tried to energize us a little bit.”
– When Washington got within 97-90 with four minutes to play, it felt eerily familiar. This is when the Hawks would start taking bad shots, throwing the ball away, missing free throws, leaving 3-point shooters open . . .
– Instead, Zaza scored, Jamal converted his ninth four-point play and the Hawks put the Wizards away. “It feels good to finally close out a game on the road,” Crawford said. “We weren’t getting blown out. We’ve been right there but we haven’t been closing out games. We tightened it up when we needed to.”
– Let’s not pretend the Hawks played anything close to acceptable D when a poor offensive team shoots 57 percent through three quarters. Just for one example, I was shaking my head when the Hawks just watched Mike Miller stand at the 3-point line and launch away. He’s been known to hit a few.
– But from a confidence standpoint the Hawks needed this one after all the late collapses. “It was important for us to close out the game the way we know we can,” Al said. “We got stops when we needed to.”
– “It’s been frustrating to watch,” J.J. said. “For some reason we don’t seem to have the same enthusiasm or burst of energy (on the road) as we do at home. That’s something we’ve got to work on, now. We are 80 games into the season.”
– That brace on J.J.’s thumb is a bit bulky, so I figured it might cause problems with his shot. He’s insisted it won’t since he he only uses that portion of his hand for resting the ball and releases with his fingertips. Guess he’s right: 8 for 14 from the field, 20 points in 34 minutes.
– “The thumb is still really sore,” he said. “Toward the end of the season everyone gets a little banged up. We are trying to position ourselves to make some noise in the playoffs.”
– Zaza has been very good lately. When his hip flared up at Charlotte I thought that might be the start of a nagging thing like in the past. So it’s a good sign that he keeps pushing through it.
– “Zaza is coming around,” Al said. “That’s been a big help. The last couple of games he’s been able to close out games. That’s a luxury that will come in handy in the playoffs.”
– Jamal, Zaza and Mo give the Hawks a legit eight-deep rotation. It’s less certain after those three, though I continue to believe Joe Smith will give them something in the playoffs.
– The Celtics beat the Bucks to stay within a game of the Hawks.