- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 4, 2004

ATLANTA — One of the longest-running curiosities in sports is why fans in Atlanta don’t come out to professional sports events.

And many fans who showed up at Philips Arena last night to watch the Hawks’ perfunctory attempt at professionalism probably won’t return anytime soon, either.

The Hawks looked as uninspired as any opponent Washington has faced this season — and this includes that squalid team in New Jersey — as the Wizards routed them 114-90 before a mini-crowd of 7,887.

Bad as the Hawks were, though, no one disagreed with reserve forward Jarvis Hayes’ postgame evaluation of the Wizards (9-5): “Man, we’re so much better than we were last year.”

The victory extended the Wizards’ winning streak to three games, their second such streak of the season — a feat they didn’t accomplish once last season.

It also was their sixth victory in seven games and their fifth road win of the season — an achievement the 2003-04 team didn’t accomplish until Feb.7.

Want more? The Wizards are off to their best start since they began the 1984-85 season with an identical record.

This newfound momentum could keep building tonight against the Chicago Bulls at MCI Center. A win would give the Wizards their best 15-game start since they began the 1974-75 season 11-4. That team went on to win 60 games, the most in the franchise’s 43 previous seasons.

“We’re playing really unselfishly,” said Washington’s Juan Dixon, whose 17 points made him one of seven Wizards to score in double figures. “Not taking anything away from Atlanta, but we’ve got guys who can make shots.”

The Wizards’ point total matched their season high, with the help of 26 turnovers by the Hawks. Washington also registered its most steals (18) in a game this season.

The easy win — the Wizards’ lead bulged to 35 points in the fourth quarter — followed a 27-point victory over New Jersey. Last night’s game was decided in the first half as the Wizards scored a season-high 62 points.

Larry Hughes, who leads the league in steals, had five of his game-high six in the first quarter. He and Gilbert Arenas combined for 10 steals.

“We know that is going to be the key to our success, that we stay organized offensively. We’re picking up defensively and we’re trusting each other a lot more,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said.

However, Jordan noted that harder challenges lie ahead.

“Looking at the schedule coming into the season, we thought we had a very favorable schedule,” Jordan said. “We didn’t have to travel far. We go west later in December, and that is going to be telling.”

Hughes led the Wizards with 19 points and five assists to go with his thefts. Arenas and Antawn Jamison finished with 13 points each, although no Washington starter logged more than Jared Jeffries’ 28 minutes.

Antoine Walker led the Hawks with 26 points and 11 rebounds but shot a horrid 8-for-23 from the field. Al Harrington added 12 points.

The Wizards led by 21 points in the first quarter, when they shot 14 of 21 from the floor (66.7 percent). Defensively, they forced the Hawks (2-13), off to their worst start in franchise history, into nine turnovers.

From there the game was pretty much nothing more than a scrimmage for the Wizards. By halftime, the lead was 27 points.

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