Hawks Hold On To Beat Wizards

Johnson Nets 32 Points in Victory: Hawks 97, Wizards 92

Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 22, 2007; Page E01

Regardless of what has ailed them over the years, the Washington Wizards usually find a cure in the form of the Atlanta Hawks.

Whether in the midst of a losing streak or dealing with injuries, no matter if the game is played at home or away, the Wizards typically find a way to beat their Southeast Division rivals. But last night's meeting proved to be different as the Hawks rode Joe Johnson's 32 points to a 97-92 victory at Verizon Center.

DeShawn Stevenson, Joe Johnson, Caron Butler
Atlanta's Joe Johnson, center, scores 16 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Hawks past the Wizards on Friday. (Preston Keres - The Washington Post)

The Wizards had won 11 of the last 13 meetings with the Hawks and seven straight at home. In the first meeting of the season between the teams on Nov. 11 in Atlanta, the Wizards earned their first win of the season.

Last night, the Wizards (13-12) had a chance to tie the game late.

Trailing by three with 16.2 seconds left, Washington's DeShawn Stevenson inbounded the ball to Antawn Jamison, who flipped the ball back to Stevenson, who took a dribble before passing out to rookie Nick Young.

Young released a three-pointer from the corner but the ball rolled around the rim before popping back out. Atlanta's Mario West then put the game away with two free throws.

Jamison led the Wizards with 30 points, Stevenson added 18 and Young, who was replaced in the starting lineup by Roger Mason Jr., came off the bench to add 14 points on 4-of-8 shooting.

It was the second consecutive loss for the Wizards, who play at Indiana tonight. The Hawks (14-12) have won four straight. Despite their sometimes-choppy play, the Wizards had plenty of opportunities to win.

A pair of free throws by Young tied the score at 82 with 3 minutes 19 seconds remaining and after the teams traded turnovers, Wizards center Brendan Haywood grabbed an offensive rebound, drew a foul and made a pair of free throws, giving Washington a two-point lead.

The Hawks sandwiched scores by Marvin Williams and Johnson around a Stevenson jumper and went ahead 89-86 when Josh Smith made a three pointer. After Young made a pair of free throws for the Wizards, Atlanta's Josh Childress made a key play when he caught an air ball by teammate Smith and made a layup, giving the Hawks a 91-88 edge with 25.8 seconds to play.

Young answered by driving, spinning and somehow flipping in a shot in traffic with 19 seconds left but after the Wizards called a timeout and fouled Johnson on the ensuing inbounds play, Johnson made a pair of free throws.

Atlanta finished with a 49-33 edge in rebounding and made 24 of 30 free throw attempts.

Wizards guard Mike Wilks, who was signed on Wednesday morning but did not appear in that night's loss to Chicago, saw his first action in the first half last night and was in the lineup when the Wizards turned a 25-21 Atlanta lead into a 33-33 tie with a 12-7 second quarter run.

The push included three-pointers by Stevenson and Jamison and a basket by Darius Songaila, who then followed another Jamison basket by making a turnaround jump shot after losing Atlanta rookie Al Horford with a shoulder shake before going into his move.

Washington's first-half edge peaked at six when Jamison made a layup at the 4:50 mark but Atlanta hung around and trailed only 47-45 at the break.

The Hawks jumped out to an early 17-7 lead when Johnson fed Williams for a 19-foot jump shot and increased the lead to 25-13 when Zaza Pachulia made a pair of free throws with 2:19 remaining in the first quarter.

The Wizards closed the period with a three-pointer by Mason, a 21-foot jumper by Butler and a three-pointer by Jamison and trailed 25-21 entering the second quarter.

Wizards Notes: Mason did not join the team for the flight to Indianapolis for tonight's game because he is attending the funeral of his grandfather, Frank Mason, who passed away on Tuesday. Mason said he will fly to Indianapolis on his own later in the day and expects to arrive in time to play.

Tonight's game will mark the second meeting between the Wizards and Pacers this season. Indiana won the season opener for both teams 119-110 in overtime on Oct. 31.

The Wizards are 3-3 in the second game of a back-to-back set this season. Indiana played at Minnesota last night and is 6-2 in the second game of a back-to-back set this season.

The Wizards and Hawks meet twice more this season, Jan. 11 at Atlanta and March 17 at Verizon Center.

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