The Atlanta Hawks pulled out all the stops to try to put an end to their recent three-game slide. They held a team meeting and discussed what ailed them. They wore their road uniforms at Philips Arena. But perhaps the most important tonic to their recent woes was that they had the lowly Washington Wizards next on the schedule.
Joe Johnson posted 21 points and Josh Smith added 20 points and 14 rebounds as Atlanta continued its domination over Washington with a 116-96 win on Thanksgiving night in Atlanta. The Hawks have carved up the Wizards 11 straight times dating back to Jan. 11, 2008.
"I think we worked really hard," center Al Horford said. "I think our meeting went well, and I think that was the key. We addressed a lot of issues we had as a team. I kind of wanted to go out there and show it. I didn't want to talk about it before the game. We did that tonight, and I'm happy to get this win."
Coach Larry Drew had one message for his Hawks team on the board in the club's locker room: "Energy."
An energetic performance had been hard to come by for Atlanta, which fell behind in its last three games, lost most battles on the offensive and defensive boards and didn't have enough energy left to reclaim the lead. Drew, who wants his Hawks team to win and win ugly, finally saw an effort befitting of his basketball team.
"We talked about it even before they hit the floor," Drew said. "They had to bring energy. That was the most important thing. It wasn't about our game plan. It wasn't about our strategy, how to play Washington. The first line of effort was to bring energy, and that type of energy I saw today, I had not seen for a few games, especially from start to finish."
The Hawks hit the ground running in this one and as a result dominated a far inferior Washington team. They held a 12-7 advantage on the boards in the first quarter while holding the Wizards to 7-for-17 from the field and held a 16-2 edge in fast break points en route to building a 28-18 lead.
Atlanta extended the lead to 17 by the break and lead by as many as 27 before Drew called on the reserves for most of the fourth quarter. By the end of this one, the stat sheet told the tale of Atlanta's success. They held a 49-38 edge on the glass, a 23-18 advantage on assists and won the battle in the paint, 46-34. And they held John Wall, who tormented them for 28 points in the home opener here on Oct. 30, to just 10 late points.
It was mission accomplished a Hawks team that had dropped five of eight at home this year and seven of nine overall entering this one. A bit of energy an a well executed game plan gave the Hawks something to be thankful for on turkey day.
"We're just trying to get wins and have fun and figure out the way we got wins and were 6-0," Smith said. "I knew from the beginning that we were going to bring the energy and effort. ... It feels good to be able to play hard, play together and everybody reaped the benefits from that tonight. And we looked good doing it."
It was even more rewarding for Drew, who spent all day at Philips Arena and had leftovers brought to him by his family. He'll finally be able to tear into that Thanksgiving meal.
"I get a chance to get into that turkey," he said. "It's going to feel a lot better with the win."