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.