After an embarrassing 100-59 loss on Friday, the Hawks were looking for anything positive that they could find on Saturday. They didn't get any good news in terms of player personnel as both Al Horford and Marvin Williams missed the trip to Charlotte with injuries. Before the game we learned that the team was also without Josh Powell who was suspended for one game after Friday's loss to New Orleans for conduct detrimental to the team. So with the fallout continuing from Friday night's blowout, Atlanta headed up I-85 to Charlotte shorthanded and in need of a victory.
After looking offensively incapable on Friday night, Atlanta needed a spark and received it from Joe Johnson. Johnson scored a game high 32 points while adding five rebounds and five assists for good measure. He attacked inside and out shooting 12 for 18 from the floor and attacked the Bobcats throughout. He also provided Hawks fans a scare when he landed awkwardly on a drive late in the second quarter and limped to the bench with what appeared to be an injured knee. The knee was immediately wrapped in ice and Johnson didn't return until the second half. Johnson showed no ill effects from the injury as he scored 16 of his 32 points in the second half and played a big part as the Hawks clamped down on the Bobcats defensively in the second half.
Throughout the first half, Atlanta was able to close the gap on the Bobcats but didn't finish off the first and second quarters well enabling the Bobcats to go on late runs where they were able to capture the lead. Charlotte point guard D.J. Augustine was a particular thorn in the Hawks side during the first half as he pushed the tempo and penetrated the Hawks defense where he either scored or found a teammate for an easy shot. Atlanta did a much better job in containing him during the second half which forced Charlotte to settle (very Atlanta like) for long jump shots. Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace combined to shoot 3-13 from three point range and were just 5 for 23 overall.
The turning point in the ball game was where Josh Smith picked up his fourth foul with just under six minutes remaining in the third quarter with the Hawks up one point. Mike Bibby picked up a technical foul as Smith was headed to the bench. Augustine tied the game with a free throw but the Hawks responded. Bibby hit a three and then after a Hawks stop Bibby was fouled on a drive while flipping the ball up on an acrobatic move. The shot fell in and the free throw was good giving Atlanta a six point lead from which they never really looked back. It was at this point that Atlanta dug in defensively forcing long jumpers at the end of the shot clock by the Bobcats and more importantly the Hawks did a good job of holding Charlotte to only one shot as they controlled the boards. Atlanta finished the 3rd quarter on a 19-8 run. They continued to pour it on in the fourth quarter as they outscored the Bobcats by a combined 59-38 score in the second half.
In addition to Johnson's 32 points, Mike Bibby scored 14 points on 5 of 10 shooting. He connected on three 3-point shots and grabbed a team high eight rebounds. Josh Smith returned to the game in the fourth quarter from his foul trouble and finally looked intent on taking the ball to the basket. Smith finished with 16 points, seven rebounds, and blocked two shots in the game. Zaza Pachulia got the start tonight in Horford's absence and while it wasn't always pretty, he scored an efficient nine points and grabbed eight rebounds while also recording two steals. Jamal Crawford didn't have a great shooting night (4-14) but made all five of his free throw attempts and dished out three assists while scoring 14 points.
D.J. Augustine scored 20 points for the Bobcats but wasn't nearly the factor in the second half that he was in the first. Former Hawks Boris Diaw and Nazr Mohammad scored 12 points and 10 points respectively.
The Hawks now don't play again until Wednesday when they travel to Milwaukee which will give them time to heal (Horford, Williams) and work out any personal problems (Powell) that they have. Tonight's win was big in the respect that Atlanta was coming off a really bad effort against New Orleans and were severely short handed. Yet they found a way to come through and get a victory.