WASHINGTON — The Washington Wizards knew they were in a funk. Against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday, that out-of-sync spell continued until the fourth quarter. That’s when they got their swagger back.
Bradley Beal scored 28 points, and John Wall collected all 22 of his points in the second half as the Wizards snapped a two-game losing streak with a 104-100 win over the Hawks.
Wall missed all eight of his field-goal attempts in the first half and finished 6 of 21, but the All-Star scored 12 points in the third quarter and hit two free throws with five seconds remaining to seal the win. He finished with 10 assists for the Wizards (43-28).
Washington won 18 of 21 entering the All-Star break but largely stumbled upon returning because of defensive issues. A 110-102 loss at the Boston Celtics on Monday, the Wizards’ fourth defeat in five games, was the ninth time in 11 games that Washington allowed at least 110 points.
Against Atlanta, the Wizards played a sloppy first half and never led by more than two points until a 19-6 run in the fourth quarter.
“I think that’s what we’ve been missing, missing our swag. Just our energy, our fun of the game,” Beal said. “Everything is just so tense. We just need to relax and have fun playing the game.”
Washington moved one game ahead of the Toronto Raptors in the race for the third seed in the Eastern Conference.
Tim Hardaway Jr. had 29 points and Dennis Schroder 18 for the Hawks, who have lost five straight. Dwight Howard finished with 14 points and 16 rebounds, but Washington dominated the glass 55-44. Atlanta (37-34) shot 39.5 percent from the field.
“Between not taking care of the ball and not taking care of the defensive boards, I think that kind of led to (the) run,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said.
Atlanta fell to 0-6 without All-Star Paul Millsap this season, but remained fifth in the East with the Indiana Pacers losing at Boston.
Millsap missed his third game in a row with left knee tightness. Fellow starter Kent Bazemore remains sidelined with a right knee bone bruise.
“This is a great challenge for us,” Budenholzer said. “To be fighting a little bit for playoff spots and positioning, and you know there’s teams behind us that are trying to move up. We don’t have a couple of our guys, but that’s how our league is.”
The Hawks won the season opener for both teams in Atlanta, but the Wizards won the final three meetings.
Beal’s dunk with 3:35 remaining gave Washington a 96-84 lead.
Atlanta immediately countered with a 14-5 spurt. Hardaway’s free throws with 10.6 seconds remaining pulled the Hawks within 101-98, but Washington then made 3 of 4.
Markieff Morris had 13 points, and his jumper put Washington up for good at 79-78 with 7:11 left.
“They were getting into the paint, finding their bigs. And their bigs were finishing,” Hardaway said of Washington’s fourth quarter surge.
The Wizards committed 19 turnovers, but only one in the fourth quarter.
“I liked the fact that in that first half we were turning the ball over and still running back on defense,” Washington coach Scott Brooks said. “Turnovers, we have to keep them down to a minimum, try to get a shot every time down the court, but we did take care of the ball in the fourth quarter.”
The Wizards committed 13 turnovers and shot 34 percent from the field with Wall missing all eight of his attempts before halftime. They trailed 46-40 as Hardaway scored 17 points for Atlanta.
Wall woke up in the third quarter as the Southeast Division foes entered the final period tied 67-67 before the crowd of 18,137.
“Nasty. Couldn’t make shots,” Wall said of the first half. “As long as we kept it close, that was the key. We knew we just had to keep getting stops, moving the ball. Eventually, we’d start making some shots and we did that.”
NOTES: Hawks F Mike Dunleavy scored nine points for Atlanta after missing 13 games with a right ankle injury. … Washington hosts the Brooklyn Nets on Friday before embarking on a five-game road trip that includes stops against the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers and the Western Conference-leading Golden State Warriors. The Wizards are 3-0 against the Nets this season. … Atlanta closes its three-game road swing Friday at Milwaukee with a chance to sweep the four-game season series.