WASHINGTON (AP) - Next week, the Atlanta Hawks will face the Orlando Magic in the first round of the playoffs. They couldn't be heading into the postseason in worse shape.
The reeling Hawks lost their fourth straight game on Saturday, 115-83 against the Washington Wizards, and weren't even competitive. The loss was embarrassing and puzzling.
``I'm not very confident at all,' Atlanta coach Larry Drew said when asked if he thought his team would be able to play with Dwight Howard and the Magic.
``You can't just flip the switch. It just doesn't work like that. I've been around this thing long enough to see that you can't just turn it on and turn it off. You want to be playing well, you want to be clicking so that you don't miss a beat once the playoffs start.'
How can the Hawks play with Howard when they couldn't stop recent NBA D-League refugees Othyus Jeffers and Larry Owens?
``Those are the scariest dudes man - 'cause they're hungry. Those guys that haven't tasted the NBA lifestyle,' Hawks forward Marvin Williams said. ``They want to be here. They want to prove they can play at this level. Those are the most dangerous guys to me.'
Andray Blatche scored 23 points, John Wall had 19, but it was Jeffers (13 points, 11 rebounds) and Owens (10 points) who stood out.
``It wasn't that we couldn't play in the NBA,' Jeffers said. ``Our time wasn't right.'
The Wizards broke a 12-game losing streak against Atlanta. They feature just 10 healthy players - including five rookies and three who played in the D-League this season. They've won four of six and are probably playing their best this season.
``Those guys have helped bring our energy level up,' Washington coach Flip Saunders said.
For years, Saunders coach playoff teams in Minnesota and Detroit, and said he wasn't surprised by Atlanta's poor effort.
``In our league, every team, I don't care who it is, no matter who good you are or how bad you are, there's a point in every game, if you jump on every team, they say: 'tonight's not the night,'' Saunders said.
Al Horford led the Hawks with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Joe Johnson had 16 as Drew pulled his starters early in the fourth quarter.
Washington got off to a fast start, taking a 16-6 lead while hitting seven of their first nine shots. Thanks to a spurt from Jeffers and Owens, they increased their lead to 44-25 four minutes into the second quarter.
Only 13 straight Atlanta points by Jamal Crawford kept them somewhat close, but that was all he scored.
Washington led 61-46 at halftime - with twice as many rebounds as the Hawks - 26-13.
A 9-0 run made it 76-53 midway through the third quarter, and the Wizards outscored Atlanta 27-11 in the fourth.
``I think guys were really just going through the motions out there,' Horford said.
Washington had seven players who scored in double figures. Yi Jianlian had 15, JaVale McGee 12 and Maurice Evans 10.
The last time Atlanta played here on Feb. 5, they reached a season-high 15 games over .500 after their win. Since then, they're just 11-18, and soon after traded Evans, Jordan Crawford and Mike Bibby to the Wizards for Kirk Hinrich and Hilton Armstrong. Bibby quickly negotiated a buyout from Washington, and Crawford, who was buried on Atlanta's bench, has flourished with the injury-ravaged Wizards.
In his first game against his former team, Crawford picked up three fouls in the first half, and hit just three of nine from the field, but had eight assists.
NOTES: The Hawks were missing F Josh Smith (sprained right knee) and C Jason Collins (sprained left ankle). ... Hinrich scored just three points in the first game here since the trade. The Kansas alum was amused to find a Virginia Commonwealth T-shirt hanging in his locker. VCU beat the Jayhawks in the NCAA tournament to advance to the Final Four. Saunders volunteered that he was behind the prank. ... Owens, signed on Tuesday, played his third game for Washington - his first at home - but hasn't yet practiced with the team. ... The Wizards won for just the third time against a team with a winning record. ... The Hawks have three four-game losing streaks this season.
The Associated Press News Service
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