Hawks-Wizards Preview

The Atlanta Hawks looked uncharacteristically porous in their
last game.

Tuesday night provides a very good chance to bounce back as they
travel to play the league-worst Washington Wizards, who have
dropped 17 of 18 against the Hawks and already lost to them twice
this season.

With a middle-of-the-road offense averaging 97.0 points, Atlanta
(14-7) has relied on consistent defense en route to the Eastern
Conference’s third-best record. The Hawks lead the East in
turnovers forced (17.0 per game), and their average of 94.1 points
allowed ranks among the league’s top 10.

They had season worsts in both categories Saturday, forcing 11
turnovers in a 115-93 home loss to Golden State. It was the sixth
time in 21 games they have given up triple digits in points.

“That was probably one of our worst games all year from the
standpoint of just our energy,” said coach Larry Drew, who was
called for his technical foul of the season.

The Hawks didn’t have the firepower to compensate for such a
poor defensive performance. While starting guards Jeff Teague and
Kyle Korver combined for 13 points on 4-of-16 shooting, leading
scorer Josh Smith (16.6 ppg) was held to a season-low three points
and shot 1 for 12.

“If you’ve ever played basketball, you know you’re going to have
games when you don’t make shots,” Smith said. “Tonight was my
game.”

Smith should enjoy seeing Washington (3-18), though, as he’s
averaging 24.0 points and 13.5 rebounds in two matchups this
season.

The only game Atlanta has lost in the past 18 meetings came when
Smith was out with an injury April 9, 2011. That’s also the only
time in that span the Wizards reached 100 points in regulation.

They could struggle to score again Tuesday, as they own the
league’s worst offense at 89.8 points per game and tallied a season
low in a 102-72 loss at Miami on Saturday.

It was a major setback for a team who seemed to be showing
improvement. All three of Washington’s wins have come in its last
nine games, including one over the Heat, and each of its previous
three losses had been by six points or less.

“I didn’t know what we were running half the time. Credit to
Miami. They came out and put pressure on us and we didn’t handle
their pressure,” said coach Randy Wittman, whose team surrendered
30 points off 21 turnovers.

“I don’t know what we were doing from an offensive
standpoint.”

John Wall could help, but the Wizards still have no specific
timetable for the third-year point guard’s return from a stress
injury to his left knee cap. They said Friday that Wall could “ramp
things up” after being re-examined, but he has still yet to
practice with the team.

Wall has been out nearly a month longer than initially expected
when his injury was announced Sept. 28.

Washington also remains uncertain when it will see forward
Trevor Booker back on the court. Booker started seven of the team’s
first nine games but has since been out with a strained right
knee.

Korver hit a 3-pointer with two seconds left in overtime to give
Atlanta a 101-100 win over Washington on Nov. 21, and he sat out
the most recent meeting with back spasms but the Hawks won 104-95
on Dec. 7.