Josh Smith isn’t concerned that the Atlanta Hawks have yet to beat a team with a winning record.
Even against a struggling Southeast Division opponent like Washington, the Hawks must start somewhere.
”We hadn’t had a game like this all season,” Smith said. ”We have to make a statement every time we play a division team. We just have to get wins at this point.”
Joe Johnson scored 21 points, Smith added 20 with 14 rebounds and Atlanta beat the Wizards 116-96 on Thursday night to snap a three-game losing streak.
Al Horford finished with 15 points and 13 boards for the Hawks, who won their 11th straight over Washington. The fourth-year center credited a team meeting with helping to straighten out some misguided principles.
Before the game, coach Larry Drew indicated he was close to making some lineup changes if he didn’t see an improved effort on defense. A blowout loss at home Monday to Boston embarrassed the entire team.
”We addressed a lot of issues we had as a team,” Horford said. ”I kind of wanted to go out and show it. I didn’t want to talk about it before the game. We did that tonight, and I’m happy to get this win.”
Gilbert Arenas scored 21 and Nick Young added 20 for the Wizards, who still seek their first victory against an opponent with a winning record and their first road victory, too.
Washington rookie John Wall, the NBA’s No. 1 overall draft pick, finished with 10 points, missing his first seven shots from the field and failing to score until his runner made it 69-50 midway through the third quarter.
”We get paid for this,” Wall said. ”This is our job, this is our dream. This is what we want to do. So we need to start acting like it and take it more serious.”
The game’s outcome was all but decided after Arenas’ 3-pointer cut the lead to eight with 5 minutes left in the second. Over the next 18 minutes, Washington was outscored 51-22, a run that ended with three free throws by Jamal Crawford.
Washington was held to a season-low 18 points in the first quarter, a welcomed change for a Hawks team that trailed entering the second period in its last four games.
”The disappointing thing was our lack of competitiveness to start the game,” Wizards coach Flip Saunders said. ”I couldn’t understand why. (We) basically had a day off, had an opportunity and just did not match their intensity. We’ve been getting destroyed by points in the paint. We just haven’t shown any physical presence And we have not competed against a good team yet.”
Smith gave the Hawks a 21-point lead midway through the third with a left-handed dunk. Drew called the play during a timeout, and Johnson responded with a perfectly placed alley-oop pass to Smith, who jumped past Wall for the jam near the right baseline.
Drew rested his starters in the fourth quarter. Saunders did the same except for leaving Arenas on the floor to work with some of Washington’s younger players.
Wall, though, sat during the final period. Before returning as a reserve in an overtime win over Philadelphia on Tuesday, Wall missed four games with a sprained left foot and is also battling a sore knee.
Wizards forward Andray Blatche left the game in the third and didn’t return after colliding with Smith on an offensive rebound attempt and getting poked in both eyes.
Young, who hit the winning shot against Philadelphia two nights previously, hit his first four shots from the field and finished 8 of 14.
”You’re supposed to get up for games like this,” Young said. ”It seems we always get embarrassed on national TV.”
Notes: Wizards F Al Thornton traveled with the team, but missed the game with a sprained left ankle. He left in the first half of Tuesday’s overtime win over Philadelphia and didn’t return. … The Hawks improved to 86-42 in series home games. Atlanta has won six straight over Washington at Philips Arena. … The game was televised on TNT.