Behind a surging offense, the Atlanta Hawks have climbed over .500 for the first time since their season opener. It has been considerably longer since they won at Washington.
The red-hot Hawks look to continue their climb in the standings and avoid losing their eighth straight game at the Verizon Center as they visit the Wizards on Friday.
Atlanta (13-12) defeated Miami 117-111 in overtime on Wednesday to complete a perfect three-game homestand. With the win, the Hawks moved above .500 for the first time since they beat Dallas in their season-opener Nov. 2. This is the latest into a season Atlanta has been above the break-even mark since the lockout-shortened 1999 season, its last playoff team.
"We've got to keep improving from this point on. We talked about playing .500 basketball, and anything above it would be icing on the cake," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "So we have to continue to keep climbing. That's what it's all about, take it a game at a time. Washington is a big game, because it's another team that's fighting for a playoff spot as well."
Atlanta's offense has been a big key for its latest run. The Hawks average only 94.4 points, but are scoring 108.7 points per game on 53.1 percent shooting during their winning streak.
While their offense is showing improvements, their perimeter shooting is still struggling.
Atlanta is the worst 3-point shooting team in the league (30.7 percent), and made just 1-of-10 shots from beyond the 3-point arc on Wednesday. The Hawks made a mere 3-of-20 3-pointers in their 101-90 home loss to Washington on Nov. 11.
Atlanta has dropped 12 of its last 14 against the Wizards, and has lost seven straight in Washington since an 83-73 victory on Dec. 30, 2003. The Hawks were close to breaking the skid last season, as each of their two losses at the Verizon Center were decided by just one point.
This season, the Wizards have won eight of their last 11 home games, while the Hawks have won four of their last six on the road.
Atlanta's Anthony Johnson has excelled starting at point guard after being pressed into the role due to injuries to Speedy Claxton, Tyronn Lue and Acie Law. Johnson had a season-high 21 points and nine assists against the Heat, one game after he had 17 points and 14 assists in Monday's 116-111 win over Utah.
Joe Johnson had 26 points with nine assists on Wednesday, and is averaging 27.7 points - six better than his season average - during the winning streak.
"We're all on a high right now, playing with a lot of confidence,'' said Joe Johnson, who had 22 points on just 8-of-24 shooting in the loss to the Wizards last month.
Washington (13-11) lost to Chicago 95-84 on Wednesday, snapping a four-game winning streak.
The Wizards built an early 13-point first-quarter lead, but they struggled to hit shots in the second quarter and went into halftime trailing by five. They shot just 38.6 percent in the game.
Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison battled illness during the week, but it didn't show against the Bulls. Butler had his second triple-double of the season and career with 29 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, while Jamison had 24 points and 12 boards for his 17th double-double of the season.
"Caron and Antawn are just on the border of being healthy,'' Washington coach Eddie Jordan said. "They were both really down the last two days - really down - with health issues. They gave us this, so let's see how they react.''
Butler had 24 points, eight assists and six boards against the Hawks last month, while Jamison added 23 points and 15 boards.
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