Hawks-Wizards Preview


The Atlanta Hawks are doing their best to take advantage of a favorable stretch in their schedule.

Their current run of success began with another rout of the lowly Washington Wizards.

With a chance to improve their standing in the Eastern Conference, the visiting Hawks look for a third consecutive victory over the Wizards on Saturday night.

Atlanta (28-20) used a 31-15 fourth-quarter scoring advantage to win for the fourth time in five games, 93-84 over New Jersey on Friday. Just four percentage points behind Indiana for fifth place in the Eastern Conference, the Hawks began their recent run of success with a 102-88 home win over Washington on March 16. Atlanta also has a pair of wins over Cleveland during that stretch, with the only defeat coming 79-76 at home to Boston on Monday.

Josh Smith continued his career season, posting 30 points and 12 rebounds against the Nets for his third straight double-double. It came two nights after he had 32 and 17 boards in a 103-102 overtime victory over the Cavaliers.

"I was just taking my time being patient,'' said Smith, averaging career highs with 18.1 points and 9.8 rebounds this season. "Observing what the defense was giving me and trying to take advantage of it."

Though he was held to 16 points Friday, teammate Joe Johnson has averaged 25.0 on 50.0 percent shooting in nine games since missing four with a sore knee. He scored 34 while Smith added 23 points, eight assists and seven rebounds against the Wizards last week.

Atlanta has won both meetings - at home - this season with Washington (11-35) by a combined 32 points. The Hawks have won 14 of the last 15 against the Wizards, with that lone defeat coming in their last trip to Washington, 115-83 on April 9.

The Wizards appeared to be in good shape to win consecutive games for the first time in more than month Thursday versus Indiana, but they could not hold a 22-point first-half lead and fell 85-83. Washington managed only 11 field goals and was outrebounded 26-11 in the second half.

"In the second half, we always for some reason get stagnant,'' said point guard John Wall, who finished with 16 points and nine assists. "We don't move. You see it turns into taking bad shots.

"We've got to continue playing through it. It's part of the game."

Wall has averaged 18.2 points in six career games versus Atlanta.

The Hawks will get their first look at Washington since the Wizards acquired veteran forward Nene from Denver in a three-team deal last week. The 6-foot-11 Brazilian had 22 points and 10 rebounds in Wednesday's 108-89 win at New Jersey in his Wizards debut but he was held to six, five boards and three turnovers against the Pacers.

Nene has totaled 42 points and 13 rebounds in his last two games against the Hawks.

Teammate Jordan Crawford scored seven points on 2-of-15 shooting in the first two meetings with Atlanta this season, but the second-year guard and ex-Hawk has hit 48.9 percent of his shots while averaging 22.0 points in the last three games overall.