ATLANTA — The Hawks wanted there to be no doubt this time. When the Wizards came to visit back on Nov. 21, they took the Hawks to overtime, and came within a split second of a winning on Martell Webster’s catch and shoot at the buzzer.
It took an instant replay review for the Wizards to realize that they had in fact lost the game they thought they’d won. But a lot can happen in two weeks. For one, the Wizards came into Phillips Arena on Friday having gotten the winless money off their backs, including a so-called “statement” win over the defending champion Miami Heat on Tuesday at Verizon Center.
But the Hawks have the Wizards number in Atlanta, and held off a late fourth quarter charge by the Washington to win 104-95. The Hawks improved their record to 11-5, while the Wizards fell to 2-14. They’ve lost 10 straight in Atlanta, and haven’t won since 2008.
“[We had] a lack of consistency with the offense that we wanted to run,” said Martell Webster, who got the start in place of Trevor Ariza, who is out with a left calf strain. “We became stagnant, not really moving the ball that much until late.”
The Hawks have the kind of game the Wizards are trying to develop – crisp passing, effective spacing and a cohesive team-first game run by the players new general manager Danny Ferry put together this offseason.
Even with sharp shooter Kyle Korver out of the lineup with back spasms, the Hawks offense didn’t miss a beat, leading by as much as 18, while the Wizards never made up for their slow start, and seemed to run out of gas at the end, failing to score a field goal in the final four and a half minutes. All five of the Hawks starters scored in double figures, led by Josh Smith (23) and Jeff Teague (19).
“We went back to the old Wizards, so to speak, instead of the team we know we can be,” said Bradley Beal. “Coach got in our head a lot about not running, what’s been working when we played the Heat.”
Beal, like the rest of the team, started off slowly before coming out in the second half like a different player, scoring 14 of his 18 points in the third quarter.
“In the second half I just told myself I have to be aggressive, attacking the basket,” Beal said. “I started myself off easy. Instead of starting myself off with a jump shot or a three-pointer all the time, I just started inside and worked my way out.”
Kevin Seraphin led the way for Washington with 19 points, 13 of them in the second half. Also scoring in double figures were Nene (12) and Jordan Crawford (14).
“We come back and we had a chance to win the game, we miss the shot and everything, that’s it,” Seraphin said. “I don’t know if it’s energy. The last two minutes, we just don’t make the shot. We should execute more, me first.”
Still, coach Randy Wittman had far fewer complaints about what he saw on offense than what he did on defense.
“What we didn’t do defensively is what cost us the game,” Wittman said. “It has nothing to do with Bradley [Beal] having 18, Kevin [Seraphin] having 19 from a scoring standpoint. Those are nice things, but defensively, it was one of our poorer performances that we’ve had in a while.”
Offensively, the Wizards did manage to top their season average of 90.4 points per game, which is still last in the league, but the execution wasn’t exactly what Wittman was hoping for.
“We didn’t trust again,” Wittman said. “We got down by six or eight, we quit running, moving the ball, started holding it, dribbling. Didn’t trust what we were doing. We [dug] ourselves in a hole.”
If lack of energy was a factor, it could be a problem for the Wizards moving forward, since they have to get right back on the court on Saturday when they host the Golden State Warriors (12-7) at Verizon Center. Tired or not, the Wizards will be in trouble from the opening tip if they get off to another one of their patented slow starts.