The Washington Wizards once again won a playoff game on the road, beating the Atlanta Hawks 104-98 in the series opener. But this wasn’t so much the Wizards winning as it was a complete collapse by the Hawks in the fourth quarter.
At the end of the third, the Hawks had a two-point lead, which gave them a 69.3 percent chance to win after factoring into account the pregame point spread. Atlanta’s chances would get no higher than 72.2 percent with more than 11 minutes left in regulation.
It was an epic collapse. Per Elias:
The Hawks, who finished the regular season with a 60-22 record, easily the best in the Eastern Conference, relinquished a 10-point halftime lead in their 104-98 Game 1 home loss to the Wizards. Since the playoffs expanded to 16 teams in 1983-84, only one other #1 seed has lost a game in the first or second round in which it led by double digits at halftime. That was the 76ers, against the Pacers in their first game of the 2001 playoffs.
The reason: the Hawks could barely hit a shot. During the regular season, Atlanta ranked third in true shooting percentage (56.3 percent), which takes into account two-point field goals, three-point field goals, and free throws. During their first-round matchup against the Brooklyn Nets, they held form with a true shooting percentage of 53.6 percent. And against the Wizards, Atlanta started off strong — then got worse with each passing quarter.
During the fourth quarter the Hawks shot 5 for 28 from the field (17.9 percent) and were 1 for 10 from beyond the three-point arc.
And the Wizards cannot expect the Hawks to miss so many wide-open looks for the remainder of the series — Atlanta shot 11.1 percent on two-point shots when the closest defender was further than six feet away. That’s nearly a quarter of their regular season success rate.
“I had a couple of tips that just came out. I couldn’t believe it,” Hawks center Al Horford said. “I think that was the key point of the game.”
It was, and the Wizards can’t count on it happening again.