The shot felt good the moment Trevor Ariza leapt, kicked out his legs and fired from the opposing foul line in a hurried attempt to beat the buzzer. When it passed through the net, Ariza coolly turned to the Washington Wizards’ bench and flashed the slightest grin. He didn’t want to look too excited about connecting on a routine 80-foot jumper because, as he said afterward, “I do spectacular stuff like that all time.” Ariza laughed — and his teammates were in on the joke after they finally found victory in a building that has produced so much heartache, a 114-97 decision over the Atlanta Hawks. With its tame crowd and expanses of empty seats, Philips Arena is hardly the most intimidating building in the NBA. Yet it has been the location for several disappointing losses for the Wizards in recent years, including an overtime loss that came via a buzzer-beater when the teams met in December. Coach Randy Wittman claimed he wasn’t aware his team had lost 11 straight games in Atlanta, dating from Jan. 11, 2008. But his players were well aware and took advantage of several fortunate breaks — beyond the heave from Ariza, an off-balance fallaway three-pointer from John Wall and an injury-riddled Hawks team — to put that streak behind them. “We know what’s going on,” Ariza said. “It’s time to change tradition and take a different step.” Atlanta was one of three cities, along with Indianapolis and Orlando, where Wall had never won since entering the league in 2010. But he scored a team-high 21 points, finishing his night with a fadeaway three-pointer that sent the few remaining fans scattering toward the exits in the final minute. The win was significant for more reasons than ending a confounding losing streak. It also allowed the Wizards (26-28) to take a half-game lead over the Hawks for fifth place in the East. “We needed a win,” Wittman said after the Wizards snapped a three-game losing streak that had seen them slide one spot in the conference standings. “It’s big, but we needed a win more than passing Atlanta.” Wall also added a game-high 12 assists, finding center Marcin Gortat (14 points, 12 rebounds) for an alley-oop late that secured a wire-to-wire victory in which seven players scored in double figures — with Bradley Beal and Ariza both scoring 19 points — and the team handed out 30 assists.
Wall scores 21 to help Washington snap skid in Atlanta, 114-97
Washington Post | Feb 20