The Atlanta Hawks came into Wednesday's matchup with the Lakers battered and beaten but mustered up enough energy to escape with a much needed 96-92 win. Not many people were giving the Hawks who had lost three straight and six of their last seven a chance coming in. That number shrank significantly when it was announced that Atlanta would be without not only Jeff Teague but also Josh Smith due to injury.
The Hawks had every reason to hang their heads in this one and go out there with the mindset to get it over with and get ready for Phoenix on Friday. They instead went out onto the court and played loose for the first time in a couple of weeks. A few made baskets and they found a rhythm. Next thing you know ball and player movement picked up and their defense along with it. Before you know it the Hawks had a 55-43 lead at halftime.
Still the Lakers had reason to feel good. Kobe Bryant started the game 1-8 and had just three points at halftime. Dwight Howard spent part of the first half on the bench after picking up two early fouls. True to form, Bryant came out smoking in the third scoring 20 of his game-high 31 points in the quarter.
Antawn Jamison gave Los Angeles its first lead at 72-71 since the opening moments of the game with a three pointer with 1:25 remaining in the 3rd. Shelvin Mack quickly answered with a three and Ivan Johnson converted two free throws to close out the quarter and give the Hawks a 76-74 lead heading to the fourth.
The Lakers got off to a good start in the fourth. Nash tied things up with a bucket and then Johnson drove to the basket for Atlanta and appeared to get fouled by Howard but no call was coming. The Lakers pushed the ball up and Steve Blake knocked down a three for a 79-76 lead and forced an Atlanta timeout. Larry Drew was whistled for a technical foul for arguing on Johnson's behalf and Nash sank the free throw to extend the Lakers' lead to 80-76.
However, the Hawks wouldn't fold. John Jenkins hit a three and Devin Harris put the Hawks back in front 81-80 with a runner in the lane. Harris scored nine of his team-high 17 in the fourth to help the Hawks grab the lead back.
Bryant refused to let the Lakers go away easily and his three with 18 seconds left pulled L.A. to within one at 93-92. Kyle Korver would make one of two at the line and give the Lakers and Bryant one last chance. Bryant drove baseline on Atlanta's Dahntay Jones who contested. The shot was no good and Bryant was injured on the play as he and Jones got tangled up as they landed. Korver sealed the win for the Hawks at the free throw line.
Without Teague and Smith, the Hawks needed a team effort and they got one. Six different players scored in double figures led by Harris' 17 points and seven assists. Kyle Korver finished with 15 points while Al Horford added 14 points, 14 rebounds and four assists. Ivan Johnson added 12 points and eight rebounds off the bench while John Jenkins also finished with 12 and provided some good fourth quarter defense on Kobe Bryant.
Bryant needed 33 shot attempts to score his 31 points. Metta World Peace added 20 while Steve Nash finished with 11 and seven. Dwight Howard added 10 points and 16 rebounds but foul trouble limited his aggressiveness on defense in the second half.
This may have been the feel good win of the season for the Hawks who hardly looked competitive in the second half of Tuesday's loss to Miami. They will enjoy an off day on Thursday to heal up before hosting the Phoenix Suns on Friday.