- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 13, 2004

ATLANTA — The moribund Atlanta Hawks live for visits from the Washington Wizards. After all, it’s rare that the Hawks have opportunities to celebrate.

Last night, though, the lottery-bound Hawks had plenty of moments to enjoy as they pounded the Wizards 138-124 at Philips Arena. The point totals were season highs for both teams.

The Hawks threw a veritable party in their mostly empty building, and just about everyone who played achieved some type of high. Five players scored at least 20 points — something the Hawks hadn’t accomplished since Nov.13, 1968, against Seattle. The last time it happened against the Wizards was when Orlando did it Jan.26, 1993.

Atlanta’s Stephen Jackson led all scorers with a career-high 42 points. He wasn’t the only one to put up career numbers against the Wizards, who have lost their last five games. Reserve Jason Collier scored a career-high 22, and Bobby Sura finished with season highs in points (28) and assists (10).

Jason Terry added 23 and Chris Crawford 22 for Atlanta.

The Hawks scored 45 points in the third quarter, the most in any quarter this season against the Wizards. They made 16 of 24 shots in the process, turning what had been an 18-point deficit into a 12-point lead by the end of the quarter. They never relinquished the lead and led by as many as 15 points in the fourth.

The Wizards’ defense, shaky most of the season, has been nonexistent this week. In their last game, Orlando’s Tracy McGrady erupted for 62 points against Washington, the highest total for any NBA player this season. It would be hard to blame the Boston Celtics, who visit MCI Center tonight, if they’re salivating about a chance at the Wizards.

Some good did come out of the latest fiasco, though. With the loss, the Wizards (20-44) flip-flopped with the Hawks (21-44) for the third-worst record in basketball. At least for now, that gives the Wizards more pingpong balls in the hopper for this summer’s draft lottery.

“It’s like they were doing anything they wanted,” said Gilbert Arenas, who led the Wizards with 30 points, 10 assists, six rebounds and six turnovers. “On defense, everybody is looking at everybody else. My guy breaks me down. Then the next guy uses screen-and-roll. … We just have to blame ourselves. There’s nothing else. They didn’t score 45 points on Coach.”

Jerry Stackhouse, who missed the Wizards’ last six games recovering from sore ankles and knees, started last night and finished with 29 points, six assists and six rebounds in 41 minutes.

“You don’t expect that,” Stackhouse said. “But Atlanta’s not a pushover. You can’t judge a team by their record. You have to play every game like it’s a new game. They came out focused. They probably didn’t have a whole lot of fear of us.”

The Wizards again were without Georgia natives Kwame Brown (ankle) and Jarvis Hayes (hamstring), and both are questionable for tonight’s game.

Early on, their absence was not missed. Washington connected on 56 percent of its field goal attempts in the first quarter and held a 32-26 advantage. The Wizards opened the second quarter on a 17-7 run to lead 49-33, forcing the Hawks to call a 20-second timeout with a little more than six minutes left in the half.

Washington eventually built its lead to 55-37 on a Stackhouse layup with 3:31 left in the half. But the Hawks came to life, outscoring the Wizards 18-7 the rest of the way to reduce the lead to just 62-55 at the half. That was part of a 38-16 Atlanta run that gave the Hawks a 75-71 lead early in the third.

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