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Hawks battle through weather, Wizards

POSTED: March 2, 2009 11:25 p.m.
Haraz N. Ghanbari/The Associated Press

Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith, left, grabs a rebound over Washington Wizards center Darius Songaila during the first quarter Monday in Washington.

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WASHINGTON — Al Horford watched two DVDs of "Desperate Housewives," took a nap, woke up and played cards with some teammates.

And the plane was still on the tarmac.

"Just sitting there," the Atlanta Hawks center said. "I was going crazy."

Some four or five hours late, after waiting in a long line to be de-iced because of an East Coast storm, the Atlanta Hawks plane finally took off for the nation’s capital. The team didn’t check into its hotel until 6 a.m. or so, hardly the ideal itinerary for a slumping squad in need of a break after a disheartening one-point loss at home.

The break the Hawks got was that they were playing the worst team in the Eastern Conference. Atlanta let the Washington Wizards, who were more undermanned than usual, hang around for 2« quarters before pulling away for a 98-89 victory Monday night.

"We really had to create our own energy early in the game," Horford said. "It showed toughness from our guys."

Marvin Williams scored 28 points, Horford added 16, and Joe Johnson had 16 points and 13 assists as the Hawks completed a 4-0 season sweep of the Wizards. Atlanta was in need of a slump-busting win, having lost five of seven after Sunday night’s 88-87 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, a game decided on a free throw by LeBron James with 1.6 seconds left.

For the record, the Hawks dispatched the Wizards in a brisk 2 hours, 3 minutes — or about half of the time they spent sitting on the plane going nowhere.

"That’s life on the road in the NBA," coach Mike Woodson said. "It happens sometimes. I tip my hat to our locker room because they bounced back from a tough loss last night. Good teams have got to do that."

Antawn Jamison scored 23 points for the Wizards, whose talent level took another plunge when Caron Butler was scratched with tightness in his left hamstring. Washington fell to 0-13 against the Southeast Division, just three games away from becoming the first NBA team to go winless within its division.

"Sometimes you hit upon the inexplicable," Wizards interim coach Ed Tapscott said. "I thought we should have been the team with more energy tonight, considering they played a tough game against Cleveland, got in late. I guess that’s what happens when you have a terrific player like Joe Johnson, he tends to bail you out."

Meanwhile, in the locker room, Jamison’s repetitive use of the phrase "Groundhog Day" to describe the Wizards’ season is becoming to feel like, well, "Groundhog Day."

"It’s frustrating. We can’t get a win, period. It’s pretty much how it’s been going all year," Jamison said. "Tap brought it to our attention, I think it’s never happened in history, a team not getting a win against it’s division — that’s the least of our worries right now. I think eventually we’ll get it done, but it’s ‘Groundhog Day’ once again."

The score was 61-61 when Williams hit a jumper that started a 20-6 run and gave Atlanta the lead for good. Dunks by Zaza Pachulia and Flip Murray closed out the third quarter, and Williams got eight of the first 10 Hawks points of the fourth, including a three-point play that made the score 81-67. The Wizards didn’t get within single digits again until the final two minutes.Notes: Tapscott was uncertain of Butler’s status for Wednesday’s game against Oklahoma City. ... A losing team, snowy weather and a Monday night game against the Hawks is hardly the combination that packs them in, so the Wizards had a sparse crowd generously listed at a season-low 10,189. It was quite a contrast from Friday night, when the presence of President Barack Obama on the front row energized the building and helped inspire Washington to a win over the Chicago Bulls. ... With Butler out, the Wizards used their 13th different starting lineup this season. ... Atlanta has also won four in a row at Washington. ... Washington’s Dominic McGuire had a career-high nine assists. ... The Hawks last swept the Wizards in 1997-98, also going 4-0.



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