Kevin C. Cox
The Hawks needed an overtime period and a late Kyle Korver three to beat the Wizards and send them to 0-10. Josh Smith led the team with 25 points and 10 boards, while Al Horford fell a rebound shy of a triple-double with 13 points, 10 dimes, and 9 boards.
It took overtime and an incredible shot from deep by Kyle Korver, but the Hawks were able to notch their third consecutive win (moving them to 6-4) and also kept the Wizards winless on the season (0-10). The game was, as Al Horford said after the game, "a tug of war" as neither team could ever get a stranglehold on the other. The game featured 20 lead changes and the largest lead for either team was 11 by the Hawks midway through the third quarter, but the Wizards went on an 11-2 run to end the quarter that brought them right back into the mix. Al Horford had the most surprising stat line of the night (both good and bad) almost getting a triple double with 13 points, 10 assists, and nine rebounds, but had an abysmal night from the free throw line going just 1-of-10 from the stripe.
The game was sent into overtime by a pair of Devin Harris free throws with 3.7 seconds to play in the fourth that tied the game at 90-90. The Wizards had a 98-94 lead with just under a minute to play in the overtime period before a Jeff Teague jumper cut the Hawks deficit to just two. Horford went to the line with 22.3 seconds to play, down two, and missed both, but good hustle by Kyle Korver to pressure the rebound forced the Wizards to fumble the ball out of bounds. The Hawks took advantage of that gift by converting on the subsequent inbounds play, which they ran for Al Horford. Al hit a tough scoop, lay-in off the catch from the baseline inbound. The play showed Larry Drew's faith in Horford, despite having missed so many free throws, to go to him in crunch time for the game-tying bucket.
"Absolutely [we ran it for Al], that play was designed to get a high percentage shot at the basket. It's trust," said Drew [clearly a little emotional]. "That's all it is, it's trust. He had a tough time at the free throw line tonight. I drew up that play to get him going down the middle of the floor, whether he scores the basket or goes back to the free throw line, I trust him."
The Hawks had tied the game 98-98, but the Wizards still had a chance to take the lead, and they did on a Kevin Seraphin jumper (he was huge for them with 21/10). The Hawks left Seraphin wide open when they trapped the ball-handler unsuccessfully on the wing, allowing a pass and easy look for the Wizards. The Hawks had just 7.3 seconds and did not call a timeout, instead got the ball up the floor quickly with Devin Harris, who got it to Kyle Korver curling behind him. Korver curled around Harris about four feet behind the three-point line, took the ball, dribbled once to get a little closer (still a good three-feet behind the line), and fired in the game-winner with 1.9 seconds to play.
"Devin was bringing the ball up the floor," said Korver about the final play. "I ran out to try to see if I could get open down there and just kind of searched it out, curled behind him, and I guess caught them off guard and got a good look. I was just telling myself ‘don't leave another one on the front of the rim.' I left like 10 of them on the front of the rim."
As for Drew, when asked if he drew up that play, he smiled, laughed, and said, "That three at the end? Yeah, I'll take credit for that."
The key early for the Hawks, who led 26-24 after the first quarter and 50-47 at the half, was Josh Smith's solid play. Smoove finished with 25 points, 12 rebounds, and four blocks when he fouled out in overtime, and his production in the first half really helped keep the Hawks in front.
"He set the tone, he set the tone. He did some really, really good things in that first half," said Drew. "His energy was up, he posted the ball well, hit a couple of mid-range shots, and it was his energy that really got us going. That's what really got us off to a good start."
"I just wanted to play aggressive," said Smoove. "I was pretty disappointed with my performance last game [against the Magic], and I really wanted to start performing with a little bit more confidence and get my timing back. I was able to come out early and get myself involved and it had a carry-over effect and kind of got everybody else going in the second-half."
The defensive performance was not Atlanta's best, especially on the glass where the Wizards destroyed the Hawks 58-37 on the glass, 19-10 offensive. Trevor Ariza led the Wizards with 15 boards, while Kevin Seraphin added 10. The Wizards also seemed to feed off of the return of their star big man Nene, who had 12 points in 20 minutes off the bench in his first action of the season. The Wizards shot just 42.7% from the field (they shot 62.5% in the first quarter), but had 16 second chance points off of their 19 offensive rebounds. Seraphin led the Wizards with 21 points and 10 boards, and gave the Hawks problems when he popped out on pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop plays. The Hawks trapped the ball-handler a lot, but did not always get back in time to contest Seraphin, and rarely did they rotate a defender over to cover his open mid-range shots.
The Hawks play Wednesday night was a microcosm of their entire season. They were inconsistent, playing great for stretches and then following it up with a terrible stretch (see, third quarter). They showed the best of their offense (operating inside-out with ball movement) and the worst of their offense (dribbling around, slow passes, long-contested jumpers) often times within mere minutes of the other. The frustration level has to be at its highest so far this season, but so is the excitement. This team seems to be capable of beating any team in the league (i.e. OKC), but also could possibly lose to any team in the league (i.e. Warriors).
The biggest positive that can be taken away from tonight (aside from the simple: "We got a win.") is that the Hawks did it together. They got contributions from everyone on the floor down the stretch. Kyle's three, Al's lay-in, Teague's jumper, Devin's free throws, and Josh's lay-ups all played big parts in the victory in the late fourth and overtime periods. The Hawks did it without relying on a pure scorer down the stretch to bail them out (Lou sat on the bench for crunch-time), which builds the confidence as a unit because at any time they feel like they can go to any number of players to make a big play.