The Atlanta Hawks have been perhaps the NBA’s streakiest team in the early going. For now, at least, they’re looking to keep it that way.
The Hawks hope their latest victory is the beginning of another run, but they could be without two starters again when they host the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday night.
On the heels of its first playoff appearance in nine seasons, Atlanta (7-4) opened the 2008-09 campaign with six straight victories, including impressive road wins at Orlando and New Orleans.
But a last-second loss at Boston on Nov. 12 was the first of four straight defeats. The Hawks’ defense - tight during their season-opening run - allowed 112.5 points per game during the skid.
That finally ended Wednesday, when they held Washington to 37 second-half points in a 91-87 win. With Josh Smith and Al Horford both sidelined due to injuries, Marvin Williams and Zaza Pachulia stepped up in Atlanta’s frontcourt.
Moving from his usual small forward spot to play power forward, Williams had 21 points and 14 rebounds - including the go-ahead 3-pointer in the final minute - while Pachulia matched a career-high with 18 boards. Atlanta outrebounded the Wizards 58-40.
“When Al is out there, he’s always grabbing rebounds,” Williams said. “Somebody has to do it. I guess it was me and Zaza’s time.”
Smith remains out with a sprained ankle, while Horford’s status is unclear due to a similar injury.
“I thought our defense was back to where it was the first six games of the season,” Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. “… We made defensive plays to hold this team to 80-some points, and they shoot 41 percent. That’s where we need to be if we’re going to give ourselves a shot at winning basketball games.”
The Hawks should have a good shot against Charlotte (3-7), which ranks last in the NBA with 88.3 points per game.
The Bobcats have failed to score more than 85 points in four of their last five games, and it hasn’t helped that leading scorer Jason Richardson has been sidelined for the last three with a knee injury. They won the first game without Richardson, but have averaged just 84.0 points while dropping the last two.
It took the Bobcats nearly seven minutes to get on the scoreboard Tuesday against Dallas, and they were behind 28-10 after the first quarter en route to a 100-83 loss. Their starters scored 26 points in the game.
“It looked basically like the varsity scripting plays against a rec team out there,” Bobcats forward Gerald Wallace said. “They did whatever they wanted to do.”
Despite the tough start, Charlotte has not lost three straight games this season - perhaps in part because it’s only played twice on the road. The Bobcats opened their season at Cleveland and visited the New York Knicks on Nov. 5 - losing both games - but they’ve played their last six at home.
Charlotte went 11-30 on the road last season, including a pair of losses at Philips Arena. The Bobcats, however, are 11-5 all-time against the Hawks, with victories in five of the last seven meetings.