The Atlanta Hawks and Washington Wizards will each attempt to sweep a back-to-back set when the clubs meet on Thursday in the nation’s capital.
Both teams scored impressive road wins on Wednesday, each winning for the third time in four games to open the season.
Washington knocked off the Boston Celtics 116-107, while Atlanta edged the New Orleans Pelicans 102-99. Both teams are halfway through their first back-to-back of the campaign.
The Hawks swept all three games against the Wizards last season, winning both games in Atlanta during the season’s final week by a combined five points after posting a 16-point victory at Washington in January.
Since an uninspired loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in their second game, the Hawks have done a better job moving the ball. They had 21 assists on 40 baskets on Wednesday.
“We were making the right reads, we were getting in the paint and then finding guys in there … making one more pass,” Atlanta guard Trae Young said. “It was just reading what the defense gave us. We just made plays.”
Young scored 31 points on Wednesday, topping the 30-point mark for the second straight game. Young also had seven assists while committing only three turnovers. John Collins and Clint Capela dominated the glass against New Orleans. Both grabbed 12 rebounds, and Collins produced 16 points.
The defense was key against the Pelicans. The Hawks trailed by 16 early and took a seven-point lead entering the fourth quarter. Atlanta took a two-point lead on a Collins dunk with 55.3 seconds left. The Pelicans got one point on a free throw, then had two chances to win at the end before the Hawks came up with a big defensive stop.
“Our defense showed up in the second half,” Atlanta coach Nate McMillan said. “It was kind of a gut check for us tonight, going back and forth with the lead, being down, and I thought the guys stayed with it and found a way to win.”
The Wizards led by 10 at halftime against Boston but got outscored by nine in the third quarter to set up a close finish.
“Sometimes we have moments when we think you just flip the light switch and win,” Washington guard Bradley Beal said. “We’ve got to be better at moving bodies, moving the ball … and that starts with me. I’ve got to be better all-around.”
The Wizards got a season-high 25 points and 11 rebounds from Montrezl Harrell and 22 points from Spencer Dinwiddie. Beal scored 17, although he shot just 7-for-25 from the floor and 0-for-6 from 3-point range.
Dinwiddie said, “We’ve got to refocus and get back to our principles.”
Beal, who missed the season’s second game with a bruised right hip, has been tough against Atlanta, averaging 21 points in 28 career games. He scored 26 points in the first game against the Hawks last season but missed the next two meetings.
The Hawks got De’Andre Hunter back on Wednesday after he missed Monday’s game with a non-COVID illness. He returned to score 13 points.
The Wizards likely will be without Daniel Gafford, who had to be helped to the locker room Wednesday with a right quad contusion sustained after bumping knees with Jaylen Brown. Gafford was due to undergo an MRI exam on Thursday.