Highlights: Wizards 108, Hawks 101
What a difference Nene makes. The power forward, who sat out the previous game because of soreness in his right Achilles, was a surprise starter Saturday as the Wizards (8-9) picked up where they left off in front of 14,280 at Verizon Center.
The Wizards, who scored a season-low 73 points, are 5-2 at home and 3-0 when starting John Wall, Trevor Ariza, Martell Webster, Nene and Marcin Gortat.
Nene scored only four points in the first half, but this team is so much more fluid on both ends with him in the game. He finished with 13 points on 4 of 12 shooting, a game-high 12 rebounds, a steal and a blocked shot.
Atlanta, however, went on a 15-3 run to close to 69-63 until a pair of three-pointers from Webster and a floater by Eric Maynor helped Washington go into the fourth quarter with a 79-70 cushion.
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The three-point shooting of Paul Millsap and clutch play of Shelvin Mack energized the Hawks as they wilted the deficit to three and four points on several occasions late. But Nene made most of the plays, including some that won't appear in the stats, to hold them off:
- Rotated out to point guard Jeff Teague, forcing him into an airball
- Blocked DeMarre Carroll at the rim
- Drew a charging foul on Cartier Martin
- Forced Teague into another miss as he attempted a runner in the lane
- Grabbed an offensive rebound of a miss by Gortat for a putback and a 95-88 lead
The Wizards had all five starters in double figures, led by Wall's game-high 26 points, Ariza had 24 that included 5 of 6 three-pointers, Webster contributed 19 and made 5 of 9 threes and Gortat 12 points.
Only two players scored double figures in Friday's loss at the Indiana Pacers. Nene didn't play while Jan Vesely started that game in his place.
Nene left the locker room Saturday without speaking, according to a team official, because he wasn't feeling well.
The Hawks (9-9) were held to 35.9% shooting in the first half, but stayed in it because they were 14 of 16 foul shooting.
Millsap scored 19 of his team-high 23 in the second half for Atlanta as he made 4 of 5 three-pointers.
Turning point: Wall began pushing the pace in the second quarter, where he scored nine points and sparked a 10-3 run as the Wizards took a 54-44 lead entering halftime.
Best in show: Wall. He took it to Teague, who was no match. Wall pushed the pace and he couldn't keep up. He shot 9-for-18 and also had game highs of 12 assists and five steals. His three-pointer with 4:05 left in the third quarter stopped an 11-3 run by Atlanta. Teague had 15 points but was just 5-for-18 shooting, only had five assists and five turnovers.
Returns to D.C.: Cartier Martin, who wasn't retained as a free agent after the Wizards re-signed Webster and drafted Otto Porter in the off-season, is starting for the Hawks. He contributed 12 points on 4-for-7 shooting. His three-pointer in the second quarter stopped a run and kept his team close at 46-40. Mack, drafted by Washington in 2011, came off the bench for Atlanta to lead a comeback. He scored nine of his 11 points in the second half and led the Hawks with six assists.
From the locker room: "I tell them that I'm proud of them. That's what you have to do. It wasn't the easiest schedule to start with 10 out of the first 16 on the road, and you have some good competition, too. ... I knew this game might be an up-and-down game from the standpoint of it being the eighth game in 11 or 12 days. You have to continually build an 18-point lead, and then we just totally lose our pace offensively. We're just not made that way. We can't lose our pace to our offense. We relaxed and did that. It made it a basketball game." -- Wizards coach Randy Wittman
"We're in good shape. We play together and we just battled all the way to the end. We played 48 minutes. ... We definitely felt it in the last minutes of the game. A lot of people were tired. Barely moving. A lot of mistakes came from being fatigued." -- Gortat
"They are a good team. They're well-coached. They're going to be a team that everyone is going to have to reckon with." -- Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer on the Wizards
"John Wall did a great job of finding guys in the corner. They killed us shooting those corner threes and that was the biggest difference in the game." -- Hawks center Al Horford
"You give credit to those guys. They didn't quit. We knew they weren't going to quit and we just had to find a way to keep fighting. We took our time and made big shots. Jan made big free throws for us to keep the lead. Gortat did a great job of protecting the rim." -- Wall
"It was defense. They went on a run at the end of the game and that was our time to step up. If we didn't get any stops, who knows, we'd probably still be playing. We have to take the challenge." -- Ariza
"It's hard to play with leads because you get comfortable. And we did that tonight. But we attacked it once we realized we were not playing our style of basketball." -- Webster
Around the bend: The Wizards will be off Sunday. They play the Orlando Magic at home on Monday (CSN, 7 p.m. ET).