Washington Wizards: Three things to know from season-opening loss

Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports /

Washington Wizards fourth-quarter collapse leads to 114-99 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the season opener at Phillips Arena.

Through three-quarters, the Washington Wizards and Atlanta Hawks were in the midst of a back-and-forth battle that featured 17 lead changes and game the Wizards trailed just by just one point entering the fourth quarter. However, the Wizards quickly collapsed as the Hawks ripped off a 24-6 fourth-quarter run that steered the Wizards to 114-99 season-opening defeat.

The Wizards season-opener didn’t go as planned after being outhustled and outperformed in the second half as the Hawks recorded 20 second-chance points to the Wizards six. With just one game in the books for the 2016-17 season, it isn’t time to panic, yet. Here are three things to know from the loss.

1. John Wall shoots just 20 percent from the field and takes dangerous fall 

Washington Wizards point guard John Wall struggled mightily in the Wizards season-opener at Phillips Arena who missed his first nine shots and ended up making just three of his 15 field goal attempts. It’s important to note that John Wall is still working his way back from surgery on both of his knees that kept him out of basketball activities for the majority of the offseason. Despite his miserable shooting performance Thursday night, Wall did, however, record a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

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It seemed like a nightmarish night for John Wall as he endured a nasty fall from Hawks Kent Bazemore who undercut Wall in what seemed like a clear breakaway dunk. As Bazemore raced up to issue a foul, Wall went airborne and slammed awkwardly to the floor as Washington Wizards fans held collectively held their breath. Wall who was reminded of the 2015 East semifinals game against the Hawks where he fell and broke his hand, immediately jumped up and exchanged words with Bazemore. Luckily for Wall and Wizards Thursday night, Wall came away with no injury.

2. Washington Wizards second unit must improve

Despite a solid performance by Washington Wizards forward Andrew Nicholson who came off the bench to score nine points with seven rebounds, the second unit was an issue. The bench combined for eight turnovers, including four from newcomer Jason Smith. The reserves seemed disoriented as point guard Trey Burke failed to orchestrate the Wizards offense.

One surprise was Washington Wizards head coach Scott Brooks decision to give veteran guard Marcus Thornton extended play who scored just five points, shooting 25 percent from the field. Many believed versatile guard Tomas Satoransky would play a bigger role in the Wizards second unit, but ended up seeing the floor for just four minutes. If the Wizards want to return to the playoffs this season, the reserve unit must develop.

3. Wizards dominated on the boards by Hawks 

Center Dwight Howard bullied the Wizards on the boards by grabbing 19 rebounds, giving the Hawks a 52-40 rebounding advantage over the Wizards. Starters Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris combined for 15 rebounds, four less than Howard had for the game. Morris, however, scored a team-high 22 points, but his four rebounds won’t be enough moving forward if the Wizards expect to better their rebounding efforts.

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The Wizards are without their newly acquired backup center Ian Mahinmi who is out four-to-six weeks to rehab from surgery to correct a partially torn medial meniscus in his left knee. Last year with the Pacers, averaged 7.1 rebounds per game and someone the Wizards look forward to getting back into the rotation.