THE FACTS: There's no such thing as an easy win in the NBA.
The Atlanta Hawks learned that Friday night at Philips Arena, as they nearly squandered 16 points of an 18-point lead before holding off the Washington Wizards, 104-95.
Hawks forward and Wizards killer Josh Smith did what he seems to always do to Washington, scoring a game-high 23 points and grabbing a game-high 15 rebounds. Eight of Smith's points came in a late 10-2 surge that finally put away the stubborn Wizards. The win was the tenth straight for the Hawks (11-5) over the Wizards (2-14) at Philips Arena and gave Atlanta its eighth win in nine games.
Smith got plenty of help, as all five Hawks starters scored at least 14 points, and the starting back court of Jeff Teague and Devin Harris combined for 34 points and 12 assists. Center Al Horford added 14 points and 14 rebounds and DeShawn Stevenson had a season-high 15, as he hit a game-high five threes.
Kevin Seraphin, who went for 21 and 10 the last time the teams met at Philips Arena, only 16 days ago, led the Wizards with 19 points and seven rebounds. Bradley Beal added 18 points for the Wizards, who were attempting to create a winning streak coming off their stunning win over the Miami Heat in their last game.
Atlanta used a 10-0 run late in the first quarter to build a double-digit lead, which they carried into the second half and built to 18 with four minutes gone in the third. Washington never quit and cut the lead to nine after three and to two on on two occasions in the fourth quarter. But each time the Hawks answered, the first time with a Horford putback and then, with four minutes left, on a Teague free throw and Smith's mini-run.
QUOTABLE: "This is a game of runs. Teams are going to make runs. Despite their record they're a pretty good team to me."
-- Josh Smith on the Hawks letting an 18-point lead shrink to two.
THE STAT: 22-10 second-chance Points: The Hawks' commitment on the glass led to their domination in second-chance points. Atlanta allowed Washington seven offensive rebounds the entire game, and only one in the first quarter as they broke out to a double-digit lead, which allowed them to play downhill for most of the game. That one offensive rebound came from Chris Singleton in the second minute of the game and led to a score that gave Washington a brief 4-2 lead. Not coincidentally, a Horford putback was a back-breaker midway through the fourth.
TURNING POINT: Washington guard Beal hit two free throws with 1:06 left in the half to complete a Wizards' 7-0 run, shrinking Atlanta's lead to 46-40. But former Wizard DeShawn Stevenson hit a pair of threes, 22 seconds apart and Zaza Pachulia tipped an offensive rebound to Teague for a layup with .8 seconds left. Atlanta's 8-1 response gave the Hawks a 13-point edge at the half.
QUOTABLE II: "I'm just getting in the right spots and I've got to give it up to Teague and Devin Harris. They're always looking for me and when I'm open like that, just knock them down."
-- Atlanta forward Stevenson.
HOT: Stevenson hit four threes in five attempts in a little over four minutes ending the first half and starting the second, that helped the Hawks extend a six-point lead to 18. His two in the final minute of the half grabbed momentum back for Atlanta, while his two at the beginning of the second half, coming in a 1:37 span, helped break the game open.
HOT: Washington center Seraphin shook off a slow start and caught fire in the second half, hitting six of his eight shots, including going 4-for-5 in the final 12 minutes. He started the fourth quarter scoring six straight points as the Wizards whittled Atlanta's lead to a field goal and had nine of 11 at one point, keeping Washington around.
NOT: Teague and Harris, who were instrumental in Atlanta building its first-half lead, both went cold in the final 24 minutes. Harris, who had 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting, 2-for-3 from three in the first half struggled in the second, scoring four points, while shooting 1-of-6 and going 0-for-5 from behind the arc, while Teague, who had 12 points on 6-for-14 shooting, had five points, going 2-for-8, 0-for-2 from three.
GOOD MOVE: Hawks coach Larry Drew moved Smith to small forward in the fourth quarter to take advantage of Washington's smaller threes, Cartier Martin and Martell Webster. Smith scored nine fourth-quarter points and grabbed four rebounds, including a pair of offensive rebounds.
NOTABLE: Stevenson hit the 500th three-point field goal of his career with 31.8 seconds remaining in the half...The Hawks handed out 23 assists, making it 15 times in 16 games that they've had at least 20 assists...Horford had his fourth straight double-double and is averaging 17.4 points and 11.1 rebounds while shooting .553 over his last seven games...Washington's bench outscored Atlanta's 53-18, with three reserves, Seraphin, former Hawk Jordan Crawford and Shaun Livingston, each scoring in double figures. Beal was the only Wizards starter to score more than 10...Atlanta outscored Washington 48-32 in the paint and 16-10 on fast break points...Harris is averaging 13.3 points on .577 shooting in the three games since being named a starter.
UP NEXT: For the Wizards, Saturday vs. Golden State, Tuesday @ New Orleans, Wednesday @ Houston. For the Hawks, Saturday @ Memphis, Monday @ Miami, Wednesday @ Orlando.