Atlanta 100, Washington 97

ATLANTA, March 7 (AP) -- It was an unlikely combination that propelled the Atlanta Hawks to a surprise win Wednesday night over the Washington Wizards.

A newly acquired veteran guard assumed a lead role, while a rookie forward made his first start and a still-young center had the best game of his career.

Zaza Pachulia, the 23-year-old center, scored a career-high 27 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, and the Hawks overcame the absence of top scorer Joe Johnson for a 100-97 win over the Southeast Division leaders.

"When key guys are out, you have to share the ball,'' Pachulia said. "With Joe out, I got a lot more touches.''

The Hawks, missing three starters, snapped a six-game losing streak and ended the Wizards' three-game winning streak. Atlanta beat Washington for only the second time in the last 12 meetings.

Johnson was home with a bruised right calf, and the Hawks also were without forward Marvin Williams and point guard Speedy Claxton.

So rookie forward Solomon Jones, a second-round pick, made his first start and scored eight points. And point guard Anthony Johnson, acquired from Dallas on Feb. 22, made his second straight start, scoring 19 points, including two free throws with 2.4 seconds left.

Another Hawks starter, forward Josh Smith, was benched for 17 consecutive minutes spanning the second and third periods following a verbal exchange with Anthony Johnson. Smith was asking for the ball, and Johnson instead called for Smith to set a screen.

"Coach's decision,'' Smith said when asked why he was benched.

"We saw things differently on that play,'' Johnson said.

With Smith out of the game, Pachulia was surrounded by a different cast of players, but Anthony Johnson took control.

"Me being the oldest player on the team and the only one with playoff experience, I had to put on my hard hat and get it done,'' said Johnson, 32.

Johnson added four assists, a steal and a blocked shot.

"I thought Anthony Johnson played a marvelous floor game,'' said Washington coach Eddie Jordan. "Anthony Johnson controlled the tempo for them. Ran the show. And we just didn't play well.''

Jordan said the Wizards tried to overlook the fact the Hawks were missing three starters.

"The first thing you say is, don't get caught up in that,'' Jordan said. "And I don't think we did. I thought we played hard in spurts, but we didn't play well.

"Despite who they had or who they didn't have, they're an NBA team that just went out and took the game from us.''

Joe Johnson and Williams, who has a bruised lower back, were hurt in Atlanta's loss at Miami on Monday. Claxton missed his second straight game with a sore left knee.

Joe Johnson leads the Hawks with his average of 25.1 points and made the Eastern Conference All-Star team as a replacement for an injured Jason Kidd. He is not expected to return this week.

"It doesn't look good for Joe being ready Friday or Saturday,'' said coach Mike Woodson, referring to home games against Memphis and Minnesota, respectively.

Gilbert Arenas led Washington with 28 points, but was baffled by the loss.

"I got to look at the tape and see what we did wrong,'' Arenas said.

Antawn Jamison had 22 points for Washington. Caron Butler added 19 points and 11 rebounds.

A layup by Arenas cut Atlanta's lead to 95-91 with 20 seconds left. After Anthony Johnson made only one of two free throws, a dunk by Butler cut the lead to 96-93.

Smith scored 13 points in 27 minutes and appeared to have moved past the dispute with Anthony Johnson, giving the veteran a high-five late in the game and compliments after the game.

"You have to pull together and that's what we did,'' Smith said, adding "Anthony Johnson stepped up.''

Even with Smith sitting out most of the of the third period, the Hawks rallied from a 52-44 halftime deficit and a 58-48 deficit early in the quarter to lead 71-67 entering the final period.

Anthony Johnson's 3-pointer with 3:46 left in the third period gave the Hawks a 63-62 lead - their first advantage since midway through the opening period.

A jumper by Salim Stoudamire gave Atlanta its biggest lead at 86-78 with 5:20 left. Two free throws by Pachulia pushed the lead to 92-83 with 2:24 left.

Josh Childress, normally the sixth man, started at Joe Johnson's spot and scored only seven points on 2-for-13 shooting, but had 13 rebounds.


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