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Wednesday May 27th, 2015 3:55AM

Wall leads Wizards past slumping Hawks

By The Associated Press
ATLANTA -- The Washington Wizards moved up the Eastern Conference standings with their first win in Atlanta in six years.

The Hawks are in a free-fall in the conference and must decide if a trade-deadline move is needed to stop their losing streak.

John Wall scored 21 points and Washington recovered after almost blowing a 20-point lead to beat the reeling Hawks 114-97 on Wednesday night.

"We needed it real bad," said Washington's Trevor Ariza, who made an improbable 75-foot shot to end the third quarter. "Especially if we're trying to make the playoffs these last 28 games. This one was big for us. Especially knowing that we haven't won here in a while. I think that gives us a little bit of momentum."

Paul Millsap had 21 points and 11 rebounds, and Elton Brand, a fill-in starter at center, had 20 points and 11 boards for the Hawks, who have lost seven straight.

Trevor Ariza and Bradley Beal each had 19 points for the Wizards, who snapped a three-game losing streak.

Washington ended an 11-game skid in Atlanta, winning for the first time since Jan. 11, 2008. The Wizards moved a half-game ahead of Atlanta in the battle for fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

"We know it's a two- or three-game spread from the third spot and it's two or three games away from being in the eighth spot or out of the playoffs, so it's definitely a tight race right now," Wall said. "We've just got to find a way to get on a streak. We haven't been on a good streak. I think it's time for our team. We deserve a winning streak."

The Hawks, who trailed by 20 points in the first half, made a third-quarter charge to twice cut the deficit to one point. The Wizards closed the period with 3-pointers by Martell Webster and Ariza.

Ariza's 3-pointer was the shot of the game - a buzzer-beater from near the free throw line on the other end of the floor to end the period.

"Once I let it go, it felt good," Ariza said. "I tried to do my best to go to the bench not get too excited because we had another quarter to go. I'm just happy we got the win."

Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said the 3s by Webster and Ariza turned the momentum.

"I think it's a very fine margin of error for every team in the NBA," Budenholzer said. "I think we had it down to two. Webster hit a tough 3-pointer from the corner. Then we let our guard down a little bit, and (Ariza) made a shot from the three-quarter court. It went from a two-point game to an eight-point game. That was a tough 15-second stretch."

Washington had lost three straight and five of six before beating the Hawks.

The Hawks had only nine players in uniform. Gustavo Ayon, who had been the fill-in starting center, was held out after hurting his right shoulder in Tuesday night's loss at Indiana. Guard DeMarre Carroll missed his third straight game with a left hamstring strain.

Brand, 34, who has averaged 16 minutes as a backup, played 35 minutes and set his season high for points, while matching his high for rebounds.

Brand wouldn't blame the team's losing streak on a shortage of players.

"It seems like we're dealing with a myriad of injuries, but we definitely have enough players to win," Brand said.

"We need to find a way to win and get this monkey off our back and stay in the race."

The Hawks have a severe shortage of players at center. They already have lost All-Star Al Horford for the season after he had surgery to repair his torn right pectoral muscle. Horford's backup, Pero Antic, is out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his right ankle.

Budenholzer said the injuries do not add urgency to make a deal before Thursday's trade deadline.

Wizards center Marcin Gortat took advantage of the Hawks' lack of size, scoring 14 points with 12 rebounds. Martell Webster had 13 points.

NOTES: The official play-by-play listed Ariza's shot as a 57-footer, but replays confirmed the shot was much longer, launched from near the Hawks' free-throw line. ... Washington had seven players score in double figures. ... Ariza made five 3-pointers. ... Kyle Korver made his first 3-pointer of the game late in the first half, extending his NBA record to 122 consecutive games with a 3. ... G Cartier Martin, also making his fourth start, filled in for Carroll and scored only four points.
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