Wizards stand in way of Hawks starting win streak
ATLANTA — The Atlanta Hawks will try to win back-to-back games for the first time this season Wednesday, but they will have to do it against an opponent that gives them a rough time.
The Hawks (8-25) will host the Washington Wizards, who have won the past five meetings between the clubs. The Wizards (19-15) posted a 113-94 victory over Atlanta in Washington on Nov. 11.
Washington guard John Wall and Bradley Beal have tormented the Hawks through the years. Wall averages 18.6 points and 8.6 assists against Atlanta, while Beal averages 16.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists against the Hawks.
Last year, Wall averaged 29.5 and Beal averaged 25.8 points when the Wizards beat the Hawks in six games in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Washington has won two straight and five of its past seven. The Wizards earned an impressive 111-103 victory at Boston on Christmas, outscoring the Celtics 21-8 in the final 5:49. Beal scored 25 points, and Wall had 21 despite being held scoreless in the first quarter.
“If we back this up with a win on Wednesday (against Atlanta), I think it gives us momentum going into Friday against Houston and going into the new year,” Wall said. “But if we don’t back it up, I think it’s just doing the same thing over and over again. Playing against the great teams, you play up to the competition. Then play against the lower teams, you fail to win those games.”
Beal said, “We’ve got to realize it’s time for us to take off. We’ve got to start making some noise and really showing our identity each and every game.”
Atlanta, in the midst of a rebuilding season, has endured multiple injuries. Forwards Ersan Ilyasova and John Collins have both missed substantial time, and center Dewayne Dedmon and forward Mike Muscala remain out.
“It’s a long season,” Atlanta guard Malcolm Delaney said. “This season we’ve had injuries. A lot of things come up. Everybody has to be ready. That’s the thing with our team — everybody plays and contributes in the right way.”
Point guard Dennis Schroder did not play Friday against the Oklahoma City Thunder but came back to score 33 points in a 112-107 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday. Schroder tied his career high in points, field goals made (13) and 3-pointers made (four) while posting his first 30-point game of the season.
Ilyasova, finally healthy after missing nearly a month with a bone bruise on his left knee, has stepped up to give Atlanta another consistent scorer. He has topped 20 in the past two games and lifted his season average to 10.7 points. He was a combined 14 of 19 from the field in Oklahoma City and Dallas games.
“He’s just doing a lot of everything,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “He’s always great defensively, taking charges and getting rebounds. He’s playing about as well as he has since we’ve had him.”
The teams play again on Jan. 27 in Atlanta, then close the four-game season series on April 6 at Washington. The Hawks’ last win over Washington was Oct. 27, 2016, in Atlanta.