ATLANTA — Joe Johnson scored 14 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter and the Atlanta Hawks remained unbeaten, holding off Washington 99-95 in their home opener Saturday night.
After opening with wins at Memphis and Philadelphia, the Hawks gave the home fans their first look at a team that features largely the same roster as last year’s playoff team but a new motion offense under rookie coach Larry Drew.
The game was tight all the way, but Johnson finally put away the Wizards after struggling the first three quarters. His biggest shot came with less than 31/2 minutes remaining, when he stepped back behind the arc to hit a 3-pointer over Al Thornton right along the sideline for an 89-84 lead.
Rookie John Wall led the Wizards with 28 points, and Thornton added 24. But the Wizards still lost their 10th in a row to the Hawks, who have been sort of a forgotten team in the Southeast Division with all the hype surrounding Miami’s Big Three and defending champion Orlando.
For now, it’s Atlanta on top.
Al Horford chipped in with 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Josh Smith also had 10 boards to go along with 12 points. The Hawks enjoyed a 43-34 rebounding advantage, leading to a 17-10 edge in second-chance points.
Having won at Philadelphia the night before, the Hawks got off to a ragged start. With Thornton scoring 10 points in the opening period, the Wizards made 12 of 20 shots and ripped off a 21-5 run to take a 27-18 lead into the second quarter.
Drew turned to his backups, sitting Horford and Marvin Williams the entire period and keeping Smith and Mike Bibby on the bench until the 5:40 mark.
Jamal Crawford scored eight points in the period, and Jeff Teague and Zaza Pachulia had four apiece. Pachulia and Josh Powell each grabbed three rebounds.
The Hawks chipped away at the Washington lead, finally grabbing their first lead since the opening minutes when Smith hit a couple of free throws with 2:47 remaining in the half. Atlanta led 44-40 at the break.
Washington’s JaVale McGee blocked seven shots, making some of them look ridiculously easy. But he picked up his fifth foul midway through the final period and wasn’t much of a factor the rest of the way.
NOTES: Atlanta F Maurice Evans sat out after having his right knee drained on Friday. An MRI showed that swelling he’s had was just part of the normal healing process after arthroscopic surgery over the summer. ... Washington activated rookie F Kevin Seraphin as a reward for playing well in practice. He didn’t get into the game, however. ... Wall is playing with tendinitis in his right knee, but he said it doesn’t bother him because of daily treatment.