Atlanta defenders hound Washington’s John Wall during the second half at Verizon Center. Wall had 21 points to lead the Wizards, but was just 6 of 15 from the floor and finished with six turnovers in a 106-102 loss to the Hawks. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Randy Wittman’s two primary tenets as a basketball coach are tough defense and ball security. If the Washington Wizards hound opposing offenses and limit turnovers, he believes, they can overcome poor shooting and whatever else may go wrong over the course of 48 minutes.

For three quarters Tuesday, the Wizards fulfilled one of the two objectives. They swarmed the Atlanta Hawks over the first 36 minutes to compensate for committing turnovers at an astounding rate on the offensive end. But when the defense broke down in the fourth quarter and the turnovers continued, Wittman was left shaking his head after a 106-102 loss at Verizon Center.

The Hawks, held to 68 points through three quarters, scored 38 over the final 12 minutes, which included a 22-5 run to distance themselves until the Wizards sprung to life in the waning minutes. Once down 14 in the quarter, Washington made three-pointers on four consecutive possessions in the final minute and trimmed the Hawks’ lead to three with 2.1 seconds remaining, but former Wizards guard Shelvin Mack made 1 of 2 free throws to secure the victory.

Ultimately, the Wizards (9-4) could not overcome 25 turnovers, which smashed their previous high of 19. Most were unforced, the product of overdribbling and predetermining their next move regardless of the defense, and the Hawks (7-5) pounced, totaling 32 points off the giveaways.

Washington played without Nene (right plantar fasciitis) and dropped to 5-2 at home. The Hawks (7-5) improved to 2-4 on the road.

The Post Sports Live crew debates whether the Wizards could claim the Eastern Conference title after an impressive start to the season and big wins over the Cavaliers and Bucks (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)

“That was as bad as we can play offensively,” Wittman said.

The Wizards’ ball security troubles emanated from their standout back-court duo. John Wall and Bradley Beal combined for 13 turnovers. In his fourth game back from a fractured left wrist, Beal accumulated a career-worst seven giveaways while making just 4 of 14 shots to score 13 points.

“I’m so upset at myself,” said Beal, who has come off the bench in each of his four games. “I’ve never seen myself turn the ball over that many times.”

Wall’s 21 points led five Wizards in double figures and he added 13 assists for his eighth double-double this season, but he shot just 6 of 15 from the floor and accumulated six of the turnovers, tying the season high he posted in the Wizards’ season-opening loss to the Miami Heat.

“I had six careless ones, some easy ones that I let go,” Wall lamented.

At the other end, Jeff Teague terrorized the Wizards with endless penetration. He regularly found his way to the rim to draw contact and went 12 of 15 from the free throw line en route to a game-high 28 points.

“They just kept running and pick rolls, and we had to switch in situations,” Wall explained. “So most of the time we had our big man on him and he was just attacking and getting to the basket.”

Staunch defense kept the Wizards within striking distance most of the night after a dreadful offensive start. The Hawks, who trail Washington by 1 1/2 games in the Southeast Division, baited the Wizards into quick shots and turnovers with an overloaded defensive scheme to start the contest. Similar to what occurred against the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday, the Wizards were caught flat-footed early as the turnovers piled up — seven in the first quarter alone — and the Hawks built a 10-point lead.

“We were trying to do too much,” Wittman surmised.

Yet the Wizards, like they did Saturday, remained afloat. As they have consistently done recently, they attacked the post early and drew two fouls on center Al Horford. Foul trouble plagued Horford the rest of the game and the two-time all-star mustered only seven points.

An 8-2 run, bridging the third and fourth quarters, gave the Wizards a 73-70 lead with 9 minutes 24 seconds remaining. Then the defense, the lone steady pillar for 39 minutes, unhinged. Atlanta scored 12 straight points and eventually widened the gap to 14 before the Wizards mounted a rally with a small-ball lineup that featured Paul Pierce — who scored 14 points and passed Jerry West for 17th on the all-time career scoring list — at power forward.

The configuration produced its objective — spreading the floor for Wall to maneuver into the defense and dish off to open shooters. The Wizards made four of their nine three-pointers in the final 49.2 seconds, but the Hawks made enough free throws and the clock stymied the overdue flurry.

Now it’s on to Cleveland for a rematch with the ballyhooed Cavaliers, whom Washington handily defeated on Friday, and an opportunity to quickly alleviate the misery of Wednesday night.

“It was a bad game over all,” Beal said. “I got amnesia. I don’t remember anything from the game so we can move on.”