The Atlanta Hawks fell into a losing streak with a healthy starting lineup. Now, they’ve pulled out of it despite missing some of their key players.
The undermanned Hawks look to build on their first win in seven games when they host the slumping Memphis Grizzlies on Friday.
Atlanta (23-39) overcame the absences of Joe Johnson (right calf contusion), Marvin Williams (lower back pain) and Speedy Claxton (sore knee) on Wednesday to beat Washington 100-97, the Hawks’ first win since Feb. 23.
With three starters missing, Zaza Pachulia became the focal point of the Atlanta offense. He scored a career-high 27 points and added 12 rebounds for Atlanta, going 10-of-17 from the floor to set career bests for field goals and attempts.
“When key guys are out, you have to share the ball,” Pachulia said. “With Joe out, I got a lot more touches.”
Pachulia and his teammates may need to share the ball a lot, as Johnson isn’t expected to return soon from the bruised calf muscle that kept him out of Wednesday’s contest. Although he’s listed as day-to-day, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Thursday that Johnson could be out three to four weeks, or maybe even the rest of the season.
The Hawks are 2-3 without Johnson, their leading scorer at 25.0 points per game. They play their next six games against teams that are currently under .500, starting with Memphis, owner of the league’s worst record.
The Grizzlies (15-47) have lost five in a row and eight of their last nine. They fell 94-87 to Toronto on Wednesday despite scoring the game’s first 10 points and the last 18. Between those two runs, the Grizzlies were outscored 94-59.
“It’s hard to keep the focus level for 48 minutes when the frustration level around us is so high,” said forward Pau Gasol, who had 16 points, four rebounds and four assists.
Mike Miller led Memphis with 19 points, but shot 6-of-16 from the field. The Grizzlies are averaging 94.0 points on 42.2 percent shooting in their last four contests, while allowing 101.8 points on 52.0 percent.
“That’s my fault,” coach Tony Barone said of his team’s lackluster performance Wednesday. “I have to get the team ready to play with maximum effort. You don’t win in this league with a half effort.”
The Grizzlies have surrendered 112.6 points per game since Barone took over as coach in December. Memphis, however, has held two straight opponents to fewer than 100 points for the first time under Barone.
Wednesday’s loss dropped the Grizzlies to 4-27 on the road. The Hawks, though, are just 11-18 at home. Only Boston has fewer home wins than Atlanta.
Memphis had won six straight against Atlanta coming into this season, but the Hawks snapped that skid with a 97-88 victory Dec. 15 at FedExForum.
Johnson missed that game with a right calf strain, but Pachulia stepped up with 22 points and seven rebounds to help the Hawks to their first win without their leading scorer.