Hawks Beat Wizards 98-89 to Complete Season Sweep

By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Before the season began, when it appeared Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood would be in the lineup, the Washington Wizards looked like the kind of team capable of winning the Southeast Division.

Following last night's 98-89 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in front of a sparse crowd at Verizon Center, it's entirely possible that the Wizards (14-46) may become the first team in NBA history to go winless in its own division.

The loss dropped the Wizards to 0-13 against the Hawks, Charlotte Bobcats, Miami Heat and Orlando Magic. The Hawks swept the four-game season series with the Wizards, marking the first time they've pulled that off since 1997-98.

Interim coach Ed Tapscott's team still has one game remaining against each of the Bobcats, Magic and Heat, and a win in any of them would help avoid making dubious history.

"Tap brought that to our attention before the game," said forward Antawn Jamison, who finished with 23 points and nine rebounds. "He said that it's never happened before in history that a team has lost all of its divisional games, but that's the least of our worries right now."

Washington's cause wasn't helped last night by the absence of Caron Butler, who was a late scratch because of hamstring tightness. He will be reevaluated today at practice.

Dominic McGuire had a career-high seven assists while rookie center JaVale McGee did some good things en route to posting 14 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks in a season-high 32 minutes. But that wasn't enough to overcome a balanced Atlanta attack.

The Hawks (34-26) shot 52.1 percent, had five players score in double figures and were never seriously threatened after closing the third quarter on a 10-2 run. Joe Johnson led the way with 16 points and 13 assists, while Marvin Williams added 28 points.

Atlanta's dominance of the Wizards this season stands in stark contrast to the way the rivalry has gone in the recent past. Between the 2004-05 season and last season, when they qualified for the playoffs four straight years, the Wizards went 12-4 against Atlanta.

Even worse, the Wizards played with a startling lack of passion and energy considering that they had Sunday off while the Hawks lost a tough game at home to Cleveland and didn't get into Washington until early yesterday morning because of bad weather.

"Sometimes you hit upon the inexplicable," Tapscott said. "I thought we should've been the team with more energy tonight. They played a tough game against Cleveland, got in late, but I guess that's what happens when you have a player like Joe Johnson who tends to bail you out. I'm sure [Atlanta Coach] Mike Woodson would say they didn't bring their 'A' game but two of their players got it going. Joe had critical points and Marvin got hot and that was the difference."

Second-year guard Javaris Crittenton returned to action after missing Saturday's loss at Milwaukee with the flu. Crittenton finished with 10 points and three assists in just less than 20 minutes and hooked up with McGee for one of the game's highlights in the fourth quarter.

Crittenton drove, drew the defense and then whipped a pass to the cutting McGee, who made the catch and then threw down a two-handed reverse dunk. The two have hooked up for several spectacular plays this season.

"We've got a little thing going on," Crittenton said. "I look for JaVale and he makes me look good because he can get up so high."

Wizards Notes: Guard DeShawn Stevenson said he will undergo surgery to repair a herniated disk in his lower back on Thursday, a procedure that will force him to miss the remainder of the season. Stevenson went out of action on Dec. 30, returned for two games in late January, and has not played since.

Stevenson, who also battled a hamstring injury early in the season that was related to the back problem, had started 275 consecutive games before becoming a reserve on Dec. 23.

He struggled offensively in 32 games, averaging 6.6 points on 31.2 percent shooting. . . .

Because of yesterday's inclement weather, fans with unused tickets to the game can go to the Verizon Center box office beginning tomorrow at 10 a.m. and exchange them for the March 11 game against New Orleans.

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