With 23 seconds to play on Tuesday night at Verizon Center, the Washington Wizards and Atlanta Hawks were tied. It was anybody’s game at that point, but the Wizards had the momentum. They were tired of getting manhandled by the Hawks, who had beaten them in their last five meetings.
The score would stand through regulation and the teams went to overtime, where the Hawks pulled away in the final two minutes for a 100-95 victory, extending their winning streak to six.
The loss drops the Wizards to 3-19, while the Hawks improved to 15-7.
Jordan Crawford, still functioning in a dual role as point guard and No. 1 scoring option, led the way for Washington with a triple double, including a season-high 27 points, 11 assists, 11 rebounds. Nene added 18 points, four rebounds and six assists.
“They made a couple of big shots, kind of took the life out of us a little bit,” Crawford said. “They’re a good team and they pulled it out.”
The most pivotal of those big shots came with 2:08 left in the extra period, former Wizard DeShawn Stevenson broke a 93-93 tie with a 3-pointer.
Washington rookie Bradley Beal also got off to the the kind of fast, aggressive start he wanted to, connecting on six of seven shots in the first half. But with five and a half minutes to go in the third quarter, he went up for a dunk and landed hard after a foul by Josh Smith. Beal left the court, but returned to the bench less than three minutes later, his hands on his lower back.
Bruised and banged up, but not injured, Beal returned in the fourth quarter and finished with 17 points, five rebounds and four assists.
“I feel fine,” said Beal, who hit his head and his back when he fell. “My back is tight. I’m glad I don’t have a concussion or anything. I’m just banged up. I should be good to go.”
Wizards coach Randy Wittman also turned to little used center Earl Barron, who got the start in the second half and played a season-high 26 minutes. Barron struggled on offense, with just four points on 2-for-10 shooting, but more than made up for it on defense, with 14 rebounds and four blocked shots.
“I tried to give us a little boost, just some energy,” Barron said. “I just played hard and tried to change the game up.” Barron also played the entire overtime period in place of starter Emeka Okafor, who didn’t play at all.
“In this league,” said Barron, a six-year veteran, “it’s just a matter of being ready when your name is called.”
Barron got the nod because Wittman needed a spark at center.
“I’m not getting enough activity out of that spot,” Wittman said. “I’m looking for somebody that’s going to step up and show me that, and he [Barron] did tonight. We can’t just continue along and go through the motions and think you’re going to play night in and night out.”
The Hawks were led by Lou Williams, who scored 24 points off the bench. Smith added 17 and Kyle Korver had 16.
“I can’t fault our effort,” said Wittman. “It really just kind of boils down, as it has a lot this year, to just making a play, making an open shot, making a play coming down the stretch.”
The Wizards tied the Hawks in rebounds (49), had fewer turnovers, 15 to the Hawks 17, and had more assists, 28 to 20. It was just another one of those games they had every opportunity to win, and didn’t.
“I look up every morning and make sure the sky is up there, that it’s not falling in on me,” Wittman said. “Trust me, this has not been fun. But we’re going to continue to fight.”