Larry Drew is waiting for the Hawks to develop a knockout punch.
In the meantime, the coach isn’t complaining as Atlanta continues to win the close games.
Josh Smith had 23 points and 15 rebounds, Al Horford also posted a double-double and the Hawks beat Washington 104-95 on Friday night to keep the Wizards winless on the road.
The Hawks led by 18 in the third quarter before Washington twice cut the lead to two points in the final period.
“I think when we got the big lead we got a little complacent,” Drew said. “We have to develop a killer instinct. Tonight, we didn’t have it. We didn’t do it.”
Drew acknowledged it’s not such a bad thing to have to learn how to play with big leads.
“It’s something that you develop,” he said. “It’s something that just doesn’t come overnight. I have all the confidence in our guys that we will develop.”
Horford had 14 points and 14 rebounds for the Hawks, who have won eight of nine, including only two by more than 10 points. The Hawks are third in the Eastern Conference and only one-half game behind Southeast Division leader Miami.
Smith and Horford have shared the lead in a newly balanced scoring attack for Hawks, who traded All-Star Joe Johnson to the Nets in the offseason.
The Wizards, who had won two of three following their 0-12 start, fell to 0-8 in road games. Two of those road losses came in Atlanta, including a 101-100 overtime loss to the Hawks on Nov. 21.
Kevin Seraphin had 19 points and Bradley Beal had 18 for Washington, which could not build on its 105-101 win over defending champion Miami on Tuesday night.
The Hawks closed with a 20-13 run after the Wizards cut Atlanta’s lead to 84-82.
“This is a game of runs,” Smith said. “Teams are going to make runs. Despite their record, they are a pretty good team. I don’t care what anybody says. They had a convincing win against the Miami Heat, so they’re feeling confident right now. They have a groove going.”
Smith said the key was the Hawks answered Washington’s surge.
“They made a run,” Smith said. “Every team is going to make a run, but as long as we stop the runs and get wins in closes games, I think that’s the most important part.”
Atlanta’s last big lead of 18 points came at 70-52. Washington closed the third period with a hook shot by Seraphin and a 3-pointer from Beal to pull to 80-71. The Wizards kept the momentum in the opening minutes and got within two at 84-82 on Seraphin’s 15-foot jumper.
Horford answered with back-to-back baskets. Washington again cut the lead to two points at 91-89 but couldn’t complete the comeback.
“We didn’t trust again,” said Wizards coach Randy Wittman. “We quit running and moving the ball, started holding and dribbling and didn’t trust what we were doing.”
Added Beal: “We got back to the old Wizards instead of the team that we know we can be.”
Wittman complained the Wizards “got dominated on the boards.” Smith and Horford helped the Hawks claim a 47-32 advantage in rebounds and a 22-10 edge in second-chance points.
“We had the time. We had the chance,” Seraphin said. “In the last two minutes we just didn’t make the shots. We should have executed more.”
The Hawks, who rank sixth in fewest points allowed, have been winning with defense. They are the league’s only team to not allow an opponent to shoot 50 percent in a game this season.
Atlanta continued the streak of strong defense, holding the Wizards to 45.6-percent shooting.
Stevenson and Devin Harris, who had 15 points, set season scoring highs. Teague and Harris each had six assists.
“Their guards totally dominated us tonight,” Wittman said.
Jordan Crawford had 14 points but made only 5 of 13 shots.
Washington’s last lead was 10-9.
Wizards F Trevor Ariza (strained left calf) did not play. He suffered the injury in Tuesday night’s win over Miami. … F Martell Webster had only 5 points as he started ahead of Seraphin, whose streak of three straight double-doubles ended. … Hawks G Kyle Korver (back spasms) missed his third straight game. Korver and his wife Juliet celebrated the birth of their first child, Kyra Elyse, this week. Korver will not be with the team for Saturday’s game at Memphis due to the back problem but may return later in the three-game road trip. … Stevenson’s third 3-pointer was the 500th of his career. … Horford posted his fourth straight double-double.