Here is my updated game story from the Hawks’ 83-78 victory over the Magic Thursday.
This time the Hawks responded.
After watching a 17-point lead disappear, the Hawks bounced back in the fourth quarter for an 83-78 victory over the Magic on Thursday night at Philips Arena.
The win snapped a three-game losing streak and was only the Hawks’ fourth win in the past 12 games. They head to the All-Star break with a much-needed victory — coming off a 1-4 road trip and playing their second game without leading scorer Joe Johnson.
“It’s a great way to end that [bad] streak,” coach Larry Drew said. “Coming into this game, again a little short-handed, I didn’t know what I was going to get from the team. … That 10-day road trip was a concern of mine. But I thought our guys came out at the start of the game and displayed energy.”
Holding a one-point lead, Willie Green scored seven points in the final 3:06 — including a 3-pointer and a floating layup as the shot clock expired — for the dramatic win. The Hawks put the game on ice with seven free throws down the stretch.
“Right now we are happy to get this win and go into the break,” Green said. “It’s a good all-around win. Even when they made a run, team have been making runs and we haven’t been able to get back in it. But tonight, everything was different.
“We got contributions from a lot of different guys. For me it’s just about picking and choosing when to be aggressive.”
The Hawks enter the All-Star break sixth in the Eastern Conference, 1 1/2 games behind the Magic for second place in the Southeast Division.
Josh Smith led the Hawks with a game-high 22 points and 12 rebounds. Jannero Pargo had 15 points, and Green finished with 14 points.
“We played like a desperate team,” Smith said. “There was a sour taste in our mouth losing three games in a row and coming back home we didn’t want it to be a let-down loss again.”
Dwight Howard, the NBA’s 10th-leading scorer, was held to 12 points, four in the first half. The Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy product was kept away from the basket for much of the night by Hawks center Zaza Pachulia. J.J. Redick finished with 13 points, including eight in the fourth quarter.
Pachulia, who also had 13 rebounds, helped hold Howard to three first-half field goal attempts. He said he relied on his experience to keep Howard at bay.
“I’m a big fan of doing the little things because they definitely help you during the game – keeping him above you or meeting him early – those things help you as a defender and the team as well,” Pachulia said.
If the Hawks had tired legs they didn’t show early. They ran the Magic into a deep hole in the first half. However, a 17-point lead would nearly be gone after the third quarter.
Smith scored the Hawks’ first seven points and 14 in the first quarter. The Hawks used runs of 15-2 and 14-6 in the opening quarter to take a nine-point lead, 29-20. Smith put an exclamation point on his quarter with a dunk over the Magic’s Glen Davis.
Pargo scored 15 points in the first half, including 12 in the second quarter, as the Hawks built a 17-point halftime lead, 47-30.
The Hawks held the Magic to a season-low 30 points in the first half. The Magic shot only 32.4 percent in the first half, and each miss had the Hawks off and running. How bad was it? The Hawks held a 21-2 advantage in fast-break points, converting 10 of 11 chances.
The Hawks scored only 11 third-quarter points as the Magic cut the lead to three, 58-55, by ending the quarter on a 16-3 run. A Redick 3-pointer on the Magic’s first possession of the fourth quarter put the finishing touches on the Hawks’ once-large advantage.
“Not to panic,” Drew said of his instructions once the Magic had tied the game. “That is something that we are going to have to get used to, get accustomed to, because this is the NBA. These guys are good. You are going to be in situations where you have leads and teams come back and you have to maintain your composure. I think we are getting better at that. I don’t think we are there yet, but we are getting better. We have to learn have to play through bad spells. We have to learn how to play through [opposition] runs.”