Wizards-Hawks Preview

The Associated Press

Coach Randy Wittman remains optimistic while trying to find the answers to help the Washington Wizards end the worst start in franchise history.

A visit to Atlanta might not provide the solution Washington needs to finally win a game.

The Wizards can avoid a 10th straight loss to open the season if they snap an eight-game road skid to the Hawks on Wednesday night.

While Washington (0-9) is the league's only winless team and halfway to matching the 2009-10 Nets' NBA-record 0-18 start, Wittman is trying to remain confident one year after the squad started 0-8.

"I believe these guys can win," said Wittman, whose team's average margin of defeat is 7.7 points. "I don't have any doubts. ... I come in here every day, thinking this is the night.

"This group should be winning games. We've got to get them to believe that themselves. That's my job."

Wittman continues to rack his brain on how to improve a team which ranks last in the NBA in scoring (86.9 points per game) and shooting (39.9 percent) without injured starters John Wall and Nene. It's uncertain when those two will make their season debuts, leaving Wittman even more baffled when it comes to deciding on his starting lineup and rotation.

Those choices could get harder Wednesday if forward Trevor Booker is out after suffering a knee injury in Monday's 96-89 home loss to Indiana. Rookie reserve Bradley Beal had 18 points, but Washington's starters shot 8 for 37 (22.0 percent) and combined for 31 points - one fewer than Indiana's David West scored.

"I don't know who to start, who to play, who not to play," Wittman said. "I'll toss another group out there and we'll see if we can't find a group that starts off well. I'm going to keep trying.

"I'm just searching right now, searching for people to give me consistency."

A loss Wednesday would make Washington the 13th team in NBA history to start 0-10. Based on the Wizards' recent history in Atlanta, there's a good chance they'll join that group.

Losers in 15 of 16 overall to the Hawks, the Wizards have averaged 88.8 points while dropping eight in a row at Atlanta by an average margin of 13.0. Washington's last victory there came Jan. 11, 2008.

The Hawks (5-4) will try for a season-high third straight victory after they mustered enough energy for an 81-72 win over Orlando on Monday in their return home from splitting a four-game trip. Al Horford had 15 points and Lou Williams added 14 as Atlanta prevailed despite shooting a season-low 38.2 percent.

"We just had to get our energy flowing," forward Josh Smith said. "It took longer than expected, but a win's a win."

Smith averaged 18.0 points and 9.7 rebounds in the previous three games but was one of the many Hawks who struggled to find his legs, finishing with season lows of six points and two boards. He's averaged 21.4 and 11.2, respectively, in his last five games versus Washington.

Jordan Crawford, who tops the Wizards with 12.2 points per game, scored 20 in a 95-92 home loss to the Hawks on March 24 in the teams' most recent meeting. That came after he totaled seven points on 2-of-15 shooting in two trips to Atlanta last season.

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