WASHINGTON — The Washington Wizards slipped up literally and figuratively against the short-handed and skidding Atlanta Hawks.
They did not start or finish the Southeast Division matchup like a playoff team. Regardless, the Wizards moved to the brink of the franchise’s first postseason berth since 2008 all the same.
Guard John Wall scored 25 points and forward Drew Gooden had 16 points as the Wizards rallied and then fended off the Hawks 101-97 on Saturday night.
Center Marcin Gortat had 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Wizards (38-35), winners of two straight after dropping four of five. Sixth in the Eastern Conference, Washington can officially reach the postseason with a New York Knicks loss at the Golden State Warriors on Sunday.
“That’s awesome,” Gortat said about the postseason opportunity. “It’s all about playing in playoffs. That’s the dream of a lot of players. Hopefully, we can achieve that.”
The Wizards moved within one game of the idle and fifth-place Brooklyn Nets with nine games remaining.
Guard Jeff Teague scored 19 points and forward Paul Millsap added 17 points for the Hawks (31-41). Atlanta, now 1 1/2 games ahead of the Knicks for the East’s eighth and final playoff spot, has lost six straight and is 6-20 since Feb. 1.
Washington went from trailing by nine points in the third quarter to leading by 10 with 2:38 remaining in the game, but Atlanta scored the next eight points. Fouled shooting a 3-pointer, guard Lou Williams sank three free throws. Teague then converted a three-point play after Wall missed two free throws.
Gortat missed an open layup on Washington’s next possession but then blocked Teague’s attempted game-tying shot with 12 seconds left.
“I’m glad we won that game. Otherwise, I’d probably shoot myself at home,” Gortat joked.
After a timeout, Teague maneuvered inside but missed a contested layup.
“We ran a play for that and I had it,” Teague said. “I just missed, undershot it. Should have made it.”
Gooden closed the scoring by hitting two free throws with 7.8 seconds remaining.
“Disappointed in that,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said of his team’s rough finish, “but there’s not a bad win in this league. We’ll take the win.”
The game was part of an NHL-NBA doubleheader at the Verizon Center. The Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals played Saturday afternoon. Reminders lingered behind Saturday night.
Players slipped throughout the game on the hardwood and Washington forward Trevor Ariza suffered a groin injury because of the condensation issues. He is questionable for Monday’s game at the Charlotte Bobcats.
“The floor was a little wet,” Ariza said. “Good thing nobody got seriously injured, but we got to work on that. Somebody could’ve really got hurt. We got to keep ourselves safe. I tried to play the game as fast as I can all the time, but after I fell and slipped, I slowed down for sure.”
After Friday night’s 91-78 victory over the Eastern Conference-leading Indiana Pacers, the Wizards trailed Atlanta by 10 points in the first quarter and 63-54 early in the third. Wall then keyed a 21-7 run, scoring 13 points in the final 7:16 of the quarter. His jumper and 3-pointer put Washington up for good at 75-70.
The All-Star point guard’s 3-pointer gave the Wizards their largest lead at 97-87 with 3:51 remaining.
“We’ve been having those lately,” Teague said of Atlanta’s suspect stretch of the second half. “We continued to play and had an opportunity. That’s all you can really ask for, an opportunity to win on the road.”
Without Kyle Korver (back) and DeMarre Carroll (flu) available, Atlanta trotted out its 22nd different starting lineup of the season. That unit included swingman Cartier Martin, who scored 13 points, and guard Shelvin Mack. The Hawks finished 9-for-31 from beyond the 3-point arc.
Six Wizards scored in double figures before the crowd of 17,996. Guard Bradley Beal had 14 points, Ariza added 13 and guard Andre Miller scored 10.
The Hawks led 21-11 in the first quarter and entered the halftime locker room up 52-50. Three-pointers from Martin, Teague and Millsap inside the opening four minutes of the third quarter pushed the Hawks’ lead to nine.
Atlanta continues pushing its luck with its losing ways.
“We just want to play better every game. Playing with energy, playing with effort. If we keep playing like this, W’s will come for us,” Atlanta’s point guard said.
NOTES: Atlanta C Pero Antic had 13 points and 12 rebounds. …The Hawks shot 55 percent from the field in the first half. … Wizards G Bradley Beal went 5 of 15 from the field. Washington’s second-leading scorer has gone 16 straight games without making at least half of his shots. … The Hawks return to Atlanta to host the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday, the start of a three-game homestand. Washington heads on the road to face the Charlotte Bobcats on Monday.
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