Wizards 98, Hawks 85
ATLANTA (AP)—After one half against a last-place Atlanta team missing six of its top eight scorers, Washington coach Eddie Jordan suspected his team might need a halftime pep talk.
“We talked about how it was probably the most meaningless game in the world for everyone else, but the next 24 minutes are probably the most important for us,” Jordan said.
The Wizards avoided a second-half letdown as DeShawn Stevenson scored 25 points and Jarvis Hayes added 20 in a 98-85 win over the Hawks on Friday night, ending Washington’s longest losing streak in three years.
The Hawks tied the game at 35 on a free throw by Slava Medvedenko with 5:26 left in the first half. Washington closed the half with a 14-0 run, capped by Stevenson’s 3-pointer at the buzzer, to lead 49-35 at the break.
The Hawks never mounted a serious second-half challenge.
“We finally kept a lead,” Jordan said. “We had a 14-point lead at halftime and pretty much kept it.”
A six-game skid had the playoff-bound Wizards (40-39) on the verge of falling below .500 for the first time since mid-December.
Washington instead recovered against the hapless Hawks, who have lost 11 of 14 games and almost all of their starters to injuries or suspension.
While the Wizards are trying to regain their momentum for the playoffs, the Hawks may be grateful to see the season end. They were without six of their top eight scorers.
“They didn’t have all their good players, but at the same time when a team lines up to play us, we have to play,” Stevenson said.
“It was an important game for us. Even though they’re not in the playoffs, we needed the win. We came into the second half and just kept trucking.”
Marvin Williams, Atlanta’s lone remaining regular, scored 24 points to match his season high. No other player in the lineup had more than 27 starts this season.
“We always play well against Washington,” Williams said. “We’re a good matchup with them. We compete with those guys every time we play them.”
Hayes, the former University of Georgia star, gave away 50 tickets and celebrated his return to his hometown by scoring in double figures for the fifth time in six games.
“He’s been steady; you can see the confidence in his game,” Jordan said of Hayes. “He’s taking quality looks. He knows he’s very important for us right now. … I felt I couldn’t take him off the floor.”
Antonio Daniels added 16 points and 12 assists.
The Hawks already were without Johnson (right calf), Smith, serving the second game of a two-game suspension, guard Josh Childress (stress fracture, right foot) and guard Speedy Claxton (sore left knee).
In all, the Hawks were without players who have made a combined 217 starts. The makeshift starting five had 120 starts.
The Wizards have their own injury problems after losing All-Star Gilbert Arenas for two to three months following knee surgery on April 5. The Wizards also lost Caron Butler to a fractured hand on April 1.
“It’s a new season for me,” Hayes said. “I’m catching the rhythm at the right time. Unfortunately with Gilbert and Caron down, I’ve had to step up. When both of those guys went down, the season started over for me.”
The six-game losing streak was Washington’s longest since a seven-game skid from March 5-16, 2004. … Hawks C Solomon Jones was called for a flagrant foul after knocking Daniels to the floor in the third period. Daniels gave the Washington bench a scare as he didn’t move for a few seconds after hitting the floor. He missed only a few minutes but was obviously sore after the game. … Washington won three of four in the season series with Atlanta.