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Wizards can’t contain Joe Johnson in 102-88 loss to Hawks
ATLANTA — Joe Johnson says his left knee “feels 15 times better.”
The proof is in his production.
He also had 34 points on Tuesday night at Denver, gaining momentum after missing six games in late February and early March with left knee tendinitis.
“I’m starting to gain the strength back in it,” Johnson said. “I’m able to explode off it a little more and make plays. It’s definitely feeling a lot better.”
Johnson moved from shooting guard to small forward, while Kirk Hinrich again joined point guard Jeff Teague in the backcourt.
Johnson said he likes playing in the three-guard lineup.
“I like playing a 3 when we’ve got two smaller guys out there who can really penetrate the defense and make plays and guard those little quick guys,” Johnson said. “It’s definitely an advantage for us because now you’ve got three guys out there who can create and make plays for everybody.”
Hawks coach Larry Drew said he may stick with Hinrich as a starter when Williams returns. He said he likes the added quickness in the backcourt, including on defense, and the scoring punch Williams can provide off the bench.
Trevor Booker scored 18 points for the Wizards, who have lost eight straight in Atlanta since 2008.
After trailing 54-50 at halftime, the Hawks took the lead with a 24-8 run that turned a 60-56 deficit in the third quarter into an 80-68 lead less than 3 minutes into the final period.
John Wall had 14 points and nine assists, and Roger Mason added 12 points for the Wizards, who were held to 34 points in the second half.
“We were two totally different teams that first and second half,” said Washington coach Randy Wittman, who said his team played together in the first half but “over-dribbled the ball for whatever reason” in the second.
“We threw the ball all over the place,” Wittman said. “Dribble, dribble, dribble. We all took turns just dribbling the ball.”
Drew said the difference for his team was improved defense.
“I knew we could be a better defensive team than we were showing,” Drew said. “We just had to make our mind up to go out and guard people and not rely on help.”
Teague had 14 points for Atlanta, while Zaza Pachulia chipped in with 10 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high seven assists.
The Hawks, coming off a 2-4 road trip, had difficulty pulling away from the Wizards, who were looking for their second road win in two nights.
The two players acquired by the Wizards at Thursday’s trade deadline, center Nene and forward Brian Cook, have not joined the team. Wittman said Cook may meet the team Sunday in Memphis and Nene’s debut may come Wednesday at New Jersey.
Washington traded guard Nick Young and centers JaVale McGee and Ronny Turiaf to Denver in Thursday’s three-team deal with the Clippers. The short-handed Wizards won at New Orleans on Thursday night, ending a three-game losing streak.
Wittman said the limited roster was no excuse.
“We’ve got guys in there that are NBA players,” he said. “We don’t need to wait on anybody.”
Notes: Washington’s last win in Atlanta came on Jan. 11, 2008. … Atlanta was without backup guard Willie Green (hamstring). … President Obama visited Atlanta, leading to traffic backups near Philips Arena before the game. Wittman’s scheduled media availability before the game had to be pushed back as he tried to make his way to the arena.
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