Mar 29, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat (4) and Atlanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague (0) battle for a loose ball during the second quarter at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Wizards vs. Hawks final score: Wizards Closer To Clinching NBA Playoffs Spot, 101-97

Despite leading by as much as 8 points with less than a minute to go in the contest, the Washington Wizards managed to squander it after John Wall missed both of his free throws down the stretch and Marcin Gortat botched one of the easiest layups he’ll ever gate late in the game. Jeff Teague proceeded to complete an ‘and-1′, cutting Washington’s lead to just 2. Luckily for the Wizards, Drew Gooden was able to get a clutch bucket after a defensive stop, rebound and two made free throws. Washington was on the verge of completely collapsing, which was very similar to their loss against the Sacramento Kings recently, but they were luckily able to pull it out, 101-97.

John Wall led the way for the Wizards, scoring 25 points to go along side 7 rebounds and 6 assists. He struggled to find his rhythm early on, but he really picked up his play in the second half. Wall knocked down 3 of his 4 three point attempts tonight, including a big one to give the Wizards a double-digit lead in the second half. He played an outstanding all around game, but his teammates didn’t necessarily execute off his passes. Bradley Beal struggled again, making just 5 of his 15 shot attempts, while Al Harrington and Martell Webster combined for 5 of 14 shooting. Besides the two missed free throws at the end, Wall had another good game tonight and picked his spots well on the floor.

Marcin Gortat put up another double-double against Atlanta’s weak front line, scoring 12 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Gortat has been solid all year long on the offensive side of the floor, but I don’t think he gets enough credit for his improvement defensively. Gortat blocked 4 shots tonight, including a few crucial ones against Jeff Teague. He altered plenty of shots near the basket and continued to protect the rim well after a terrific performance against the Indiana Pacers last night. With that said, Gortat has to try to finish stronger around the basket. He got one of the easiest layup/dunk opportunities he’ll get in an NBA game with just seconds remaining, but ended up botching it. We’ve seen him dunk the ball in traffic before, so I’m not sure why he opted to go for the layup. Nevertheless, Gortat had himself another solid game tonight.

Washington’s bench also played a key part in their win against Atlanta. Andre Miller made all 4 of his shot attempts and finished the game with 10 points and 3 assists. The stability he brings off the bench can’t be overstated and Randy Wittman actually finished the game with both Miller and John Wall sharing the floor together. Drew Gooden also made all 5 of his shot attempts, scoring 16 points and 8 rebounds off the bench. He made two of the most crucial plays of the game after contesting Jeff Teague’s attempt to tie the game in the fourth quarter, followed by a defensive rebound. Trevor Booker struggled tonight and Gooden has consistently been playing well off the bench. It might be time to start thinking about moving him up to the starting lineup.

Any win is a good win at this point and although it wasn’t pretty, I’m sure the Wizards won’t complain. After tonight’s win over the Hawks, the Washington Wizards have a chance to clinch a spot in the postseason if the New York Knicks lose against the Golden State Warriors tomorrow night. For the first time since 2008, the Wizards have put themselves in position to make the playoffs and they’re actually starting to win games that matter in March. Time have changed and for the better.

They’ll be back in action on Monday night against the Charlotte Bobcats, a team desperately trying to move up in the standings. It should be a good one.

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