Atlanta Hawks guard Joe Johnson finally shook off his worst slump of the season. He's had little trouble getting into a grove against the Washington Wizards in the last two seasons.
After helping the Hawks end a long losing streak, Johnson looks to continue his scoring surge against the Wizards when the teams continue their season series Friday night.
Johnson scored 29 points as Atlanta (16-16) snapped a four-game skid with a 90-81 win over Cleveland on Wednesday night.
Johnson, who leads the Hawks with 21.5 points per game, averaged 8.5 on 25.9 percent (7-for-27) shooting in his previous two games. He added seven rebounds and five assists while going 11-for-14 from the free-throw line Wednesday after being held under 10 points in consecutive games for the first time this season.
Meanwhile, in his last four games against Washington (17-16), Johnson is averaging 26.8 points. He has averaged 27.0 points on just over 39 percent shooting in two games this season as the Hawks and Wizards have split two meetings.
The Wizards' 101-90 win at Atlanta on Nov. 10 was their first of the season and started a season-high six-game winning streak after they opened the season 0-5. They have not lost more than three straight since.
Washington had won four of six before shooting 41.1 percent (30-for-73) in a 92-84 loss to short-handed Houston on Tuesday night. The Wizards haven't beaten a team with a winning record since a 101-97 victory over Toronto on Dec. 1.
Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison, who have been leading Washington with Gilbert Arenas (knee) sidelined, both struggled Tuesday. Jamison was held to 14 points on 4-of-13 shooting, and Butler scored 12 on 5-for-16 shooting.
"We really couldn't get it going offensively," said Jamison, averaging 21.6 points per game. "We had very few open shots."
Jamison is averaging 26.5 points and 12.0 rebounds while shooting 56.8 percent (21-for-37) in the two games versus the Hawks this season. Atlanta, though, ranks among the NBA's leaders in scoring defense, allowing 95.8 points a contest.
With Arenas out, Washington has also tightened up its defense, yielding an average of 92.8 points in its last 18 games.
Strong defense has helped put the Hawks and Wizards in the midst of the Eastern Conference playoff race. They are among five teams hovering around the .500 mark, making head-to-head contests between them crucial.
Atlanta will be trying to move back over .500 for the first time since it was 14-13 following a loss to Dallas on Dec. 29. The Hawks will be playing the middle game of a five-game stretch at home, where they are 11-7 on the season.
Atlanta, though, again may be without reserve center Zaza Pachulia, who was inactive with a sore toe Wednesday and has missed two of the Hawks' last three games. Lorenzen Wright replaced starting center Al Horford against the Cavaliers. He was scoreless, but had eight rebounds in 22 minutes.
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