Hawks-Wizards Preview

The Associated Press

After getting a much-needed boost by rallying to end a lengthy skid, the Atlanta Hawks would appear to have a chance to keep their momentum going when they face the NBA-worst Washington Wizards.

The Wizards, though, have been competitive in all three games with the Hawks this season and are expected to have star point guard John Wall available for the first time in 2012-13 during Saturday night's matchup.

Atlanta (21-14) ended a season-high four-game losing streak by overcoming a 15-point deficit in the second half and shooting 55.6 percent in a 103-95 home win over Utah on Friday. The Hawks averaged 87.8 points during their slide.

"It's huge for us," said Devin Harris, who had a season-high 24 points in his first start since returning from a sore left foot. "It builds character. It brings a team together."

Atlanta would appear to have a good opportunity at its first win streak since a four-game run Dec. 22-29 as it's won 18 of 19 over the Wizards and six in a row. The Hawks have also won nine of 10 in Washington and prevailed in each of the past two visits.

Atlanta, though, had to go to overtime to win in its only visit to the Verizon Center this season, 100-95 on Dec. 18. The Hawks also needed an extra period and had to sweat through a video review of Martell Webster's buzzer beater for a 101-100 home victory over the Wizards (5-28) on Nov. 21.

The Hawks nearly blew an 18-point lead in a 104-95 win against Washington on Dec. 7 in Atlanta. Josh Smith had 23 points and a season-high 15 rebounds in that win, and has averaged a team-best 21.7 points and 13.3 boards in this season's series.

Atlanta, though, has also had the benefit of not having to face Wall, who has been recovering from a stress injury to his left kneecap. The former No. 1 overall draft pick was cleared to play Friday after his third straight day of practice with no complications.

That news of Wall's expected return only added to the recent positivity for the Wizards, who are coming off a 101-99 win over Northwest Division-leading Oklahoma City on Monday. Bradley Beal hit the go-ahead jumper with 0.3 seconds left and scored 22 points, tying Webster for the team lead.

The Wizards had lost 13 of 14 and five in a row before that victory.

"It's a new beginning," Wall said. "I think it's exciting that my teammates are excited to have me back on the court."

Wizards coach Randy Wittman said that Wall's minutes will initially be determined by the team's trainers.

"He's going to be going 100 miles per hour, knowing John. He's going to have to temper that but you also want him to play the way he plays. I don't want to pull back too much on that," Wittman said. "His conditioning is something I'm going to have to keep an eye on."

Wall was held to eight points on 1-of-10 shooting in his most recent meeting with Atlanta, a 95-92 home loss March 24, after averaging 18.2 in his first six matchups.

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