Atlanta Hawks: Hawks 95, Wizards 92
Washington–The Wizards may be a good team one day. Right now the Hawks have better, smarter, and more experienced players. In the fourth quarter they maintained their poise, controlled the glass and made key shots while waiting for the Wizards to show their age.
- I’ll say it again: It was a professional effort by a fatigued team that once again began the game like it was cool trying to trade baskets but ended it like it a veteran, self-assured outfit.
- “I know some guys were tired, some guys were banged up,” Larry Drew said. “We were playing catch up the whole game. We got over the hump in the fourth quarter and that’s a huge, huge win for us. We are quietly starting to turn into one of those teams. We have stretches where we don’t play well, we have stretches that teams have runs on us, but we don’t panic. That’s a sign of a veteran team.”
- I’m not sure about huge, but the victory does help the Hawks stay on pace for homecourt advantage in the playoffs. They’ll earn it if they finish with a better record than Philly, though Philly would be the higher seed by virtue of a division title. The explanation for this silly system is here below the standings.
- If you like the ponies, the Wizards were sort of like a talented thoroughbred moving up in class against more accomplished foes, running a strong race but getting wired. Yes, I like the ponies.
- “Everything is easy when you are up [big], everybody is free-flowing and making plays,” Joe Johnson said. “But down the stretch, when it’s gut-check time, everyone tends to get a little tense and a little tight and the basket is not as big. We knew we had a chance.”
- The Hawks were going for the tie at the end but the Wizards cut off the play. The ball swung back to Joe, who calmly knocked down a 27-foot 3. Joe scored nine points on four shots in just 5:42 in the fourth quarter.
- “Joe came in that fourth quarter, it took him a couple trips to get loose again and then he was aggressive and in attack mode,” Drew said. “I guess the rest I gave him in that fourth quarter gave him some good because he hit some big shots.”
- Drew was able to give his starters a long breather in the fourth quarter because all of the bench guys made positive contributions after none of them except Marvin Williams offered much in the first half. Jeff Teague’s 36 minutes and Josh Smith’s 35 were the highs for the starters, though foul trouble also contributed to Teague’s limited run.
- “It was that second unit that got us back in it,” Drew said. “I wasn’t 100 percent I wanted to put the guys back in the game when I did, but it worked out pretty good.”
- Marvin Williams once again looked good coming off the bench in the first half. His nine points on six shots, second to Josh’s 14 points on 10 shots in the first half, prevented the Wizards from really running away with it.
- Ivan Johnson had five points on two shots and six defensive rebounds in just 18 minutes. He was good against Nene and Kevin Seraphin and even started a fast break and ended it with a nifty pass to Marvin.
- Willie Green and Vladimir Radmanovic each made key shots during the second-half rally. Vlad Rad also had four offensive rebounds and forced Dunwoody High’s Chris Singleton to miss in the final minute.
- “Ivan came in and played good defense on Nene,” Josh said. “Vladi hit a big three in the fourth quarter. Marvin, he lifted us offensively. Everybody contributed. That’s what you need in these three-in-a-row stretches.”
- The minutes are starting to pile up for Josh and it showed. He still was energetic while challenging drives (two blocks and three steals) and had 20 points on 17 shots.
- Zaza Pachulia seemed to look better as the game went on. He said he didn’t quite have his legs: “I don’t care [about the injury]. It feels good. If I’m out there, I can play.”
- With Zaza unable to do his usual good work on the boards, Kirk Hinrich’s seven rebounds were important. So was his perimeter defense against John Wall (1 for 10 from the floor).
- Teague (nine assists) did a very nice job using his penetration to set up teammates.
- The Wizards coughed up their second big lead in as many games. They seemed to forget about Nene down the stretch as Singleton, Wall and Jordan Crawford took turns jacking up rushed shots. “We played one way up until this trade and now we have to break that,” Randy Wiitman said. “The ball has to go inside more, inside-out.”
- With the Wizards leading 90-88, Crawford waved off a screen to take Joe one-on-one and missed a rushed jumper. He remains an undisciplined offensive talent.
- “I already knew that was coming,” Joe said. “Jordan is a great friend of mine. Any advice I can give him I’m always a phone call away. But when we play together it’s trash talking, ‘You can’t guard me.’ That’s just the way it is. I knew it was going to come down like that before the game was over, it just happened to be at a crucial part of the game.”
- Vlad Rad reported no problems with his back: “But the question is how it will feel tomorrow.”
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat