Hawks keep Wizards, Wall at bay

Joe Johnson scored 14 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter and

the Atlanta Hawks remained unbeaten, holding off Washington 99-95

in their home opener Saturday night.

After opening with wins at Memphis and Philadelphia, the Hawks

gave the home fans their first look at a team that features largely

the same roster as last year’s playoff team but a new motion

offense under rookie coach Larry Drew.

The game was tight all the way, but Johnson finally put away the

Wizards after struggling the first three quarters. His biggest shot

came with less than 3 1/2 minutes remaining, when he stepped back

behind the arc to hit a 3-pointer over Al Thornton right along the

sideline for an 89-84 lead.

Rookie John Wall led the Wizards with 28 points, and Thornton

added 24. But the Wizards still lost their 10th in a row to the

Hawks, who have been sort of a forgotten team in the Southeast

Division with all the hype surrounding Miami’s Big Three and

defending champion Orlando.

For now, it’s Atlanta on top.

Al Horford chipped in with 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Josh

Smith also had 10 boards to go along with 12 points. The Hawks

enjoyed a 43-34 rebounding advantage, leading to a 17-10 edge in

second-chance points.

Having won at Philadelphia the night before, the Hawks got off

to a ragged start. With Thornton scoring 10 points in the opening

period, the Wizards made 12 of 20 shots and ripped off a 21-5 run

to take a 27-18 lead into the second quarter.

Drew turned to his backups, sitting Horford and Marvin Williams

the entire period and keeping Smith and Mike Bibby on the bench

until the 5:40 mark. Jamal Crawford scored eight points in the

period, and Jeff Teague and Zaza Pachulia had four apiece. Pachulia

and Josh Powell each grabbed three rebounds.

The Hawks chipped away at the Washington lead, finally grabbing

their first lead since the opening minutes when Smith hit a couple

of free throws with 2:47 remaining in the half. Atlanta led 44-40

at the break.

Washington’s JaVale McGee blocked seven shots, making some of

them look ridiculously easy. But he picked up his fifth foul midway

through the final period and wasn’t much of a factor the rest of

the way.

NOTES: Atlanta F Maurice Evans sat out after having his right

knee drained on Friday. An MRI showed that swelling he’s had was

just part of the normal healing process after arthroscopic surgery

over the summer. … Washington activated rookie F Kevin Seraphin

as a reward for playing well in practice. He didn’t get into the

game, however. … Wall is playing with tendinitis in his right

knee, but he said it doesn’t bother him because of daily

treatment.