The Hawks didn’t need a last-second 3-pointer to beat the lowly Wizards this time.
Atlanta built an 18 point lead in the third quarter but still had to hold off a late rally en route to a 104-95 victory over Washington Friday night. The win comes two weeks after the Hawks needed a last shot to defeat the then-winless Wizards at home.
The Hawks (11-5), third in the Eastern Conference, won for the eighth time in the past nine games. They have beaten the Wizards five straight games and 10 straight at Philips Arena.
The Wizards (2-14) are winless on the road, dropping all eight contests.
After watching two fourth-quarter leads slip away in their last two games, one a win and one a loss, the Hawks wanted to show a killer instinct against an inferior opponent.
They did – but barely.
The Hawks built the 18-point lead as DeShawn Stevenson hit a pair of 3-pointers early in third period. The Wizards didn’t go away without a fight. They chipped away and cut the lead to two points in the fourth quarter.
The Hawks used a 13-2 run, started with less than four minutes left, to regain the double-digit lead for the win.
“We have to develop a killer instinct,” coach Larry Drew said. “We had a team on the ropes and clearly had the momentum. We just have to develop that killer instinct. Tonight we didn’t have it. We didn’t do it. I’ve seen it before. I’ve seen us get into games and we have stretches where we really play well, we get leads and we have a lapse. We had one tonight.
“It’s something that you develop and something that doesn’t come over night. You eventually develop. You have to go through those type situations to understand it. I love being in that position where we do get big leads and create some separation. I’d rather have that problem than the other way around.”
Josh Smith led the Hawks with 23 points and a season-high 15 rebounds. Al Horford added 14 points and 14 rebounds, his fourth straight game with a double-double. The Hawks also got double-digit scoring from their other starters in Jeff Teague (19), Stevenson (15) and Devin Harris (15).
Harris said the issue was more about the mistakes the Hawks are making.
“We just have to develop that killer instinct,” Harris said. “This is a different team. Sometime it takes a little while. Hopefully it won’t cost us any more games before we can figure it out. … You have to go through it a couple times and learn from your mistakes. In the third quarter we had them on the ropes. We have to understand that at that point we have to turn it up a little bit more.”
The Wizards were led by Kevin Seraphin with 19 points and Bradley Beal with 18 points.
The Hawks led by as many as 14 points in the first half. The Wizards cut the lead to six points, 46-40, late in the second quarter. However, Stevenson hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Teague made a layup as the Hawks re-took a double-digit lead, 54-41, headed into intermission.
“I’ve got to give it up to Teague and Harris,” Stevenson said. “I’m in the right spots. They know what spots I like to shoot from. I’m playing with a lot of confidence right now and just shooting the ball.”
A 12-2 first-quarter run broke the game open early for the Hawks. They used another 10-0 run late in the opening stanza to lead by 14 points. The Wizards finished the opening quarter by shooting just 1 of 8 from the floor.
The Hawks held a 47-32 rebounding advantage, a key statistic for the unit.
It’s early in the season but Stevenson said the Hawks must learn to finish off opponents.
“In the third quarter we get lackadaisical, take bad shots and turn the ball over,” he said. “We have to keep that killer instinct because in the playoffs it’s like that. … It’s a good position (with big leads) but at the same time you don’t want it to come back in a playoff situation and it bite us in the butt.”
The Hawks will be tested as they start a three-game road trip Saturday against the Grizzlies, the top team in the Western Conference. That is followed by a game against the Heat, with the second best record in the Eastern Conference.
“All in all we’ve had a great homestand,” Smith said. “That was very important. Now, we have to go out on the road and try to duplicate what we did at home.”
- Chris Vivlamore