Vivlamore reporting from Oklahoma City.
The Lou Williams signing looks pretty darn good right about now.
The Hawks did what few thought was possible on Sunday. They entered one hostile environment and stared down the defending Western Conference champion Thunder. Oh, and did we mention they did so without star Josh Smith.
Williams had a run of 10 straight points late in the fourth quarter as the Hawks defeated the Thunder 104-95 silencing a once raucous sellout crowd of 18,203 at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Williams scored 14 of the Hawks’ final 23 points. DeShawn Stevenson hit a 3-pointer with 1:28 remaining that put the Hawks up 100-91. Williams then hit four free throws in the final seconds to ice the victory and end a Thunder mini-run.
“Over the past four or five years of my career, the fourth quarter has probably been my best,” said Williams, who finished with 19 points. “I’ve always gotten off to slow starts for whatever reason. I just pick it up in the fourth quarter. It’s something I’ve done in the past and something I want to bring to this team.”
Williams also had a team-high 22 points in the season-opening loss to the Rockets.
The Hawks also got a strong effort from Al Horford. The center finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Horford scored eight of the Hawks’ first 13 points. After a scoreless second quarter, Horford scored nine of the Hawks’ first 19 points of the third quarter.
“Coach went to me early in the third,” Horford said. “He wanted to get me back involved. I missed some shots that I usually make. I just stayed positive and kept playing. Whatever the defense gave me, I just played off that.”
The Hawks (1-1) got contributions from nearly the entire team. All 10 players who entered the game scored at least four points. Jeff Teague had 16 points, including eight in the first quarter. Ivan Johnson added 10 points.
The Hawks’ rebounding, which was such a sore spot in their season-opening loss to the Rockets, was impressive. The Hawks held a 38-37 advantage on the boards.
Although the victory came in the second game of the young season, coach Larry Drew and his team did not want to underestimate the scope of the win.
“If you look at it before the game probably a lot of people didn’t give us any kind of chance,” Horford said. “It just shows character of this team. … This was a team effort we are pretty proud about.”
The Thunder (1-2) were led by Kevin Martin with a game-high 28 points, including 22 in the first half. Kevin Durant added 22 points and 12 rebounds.
With the game on the line in the fourth quarter, Drew elected to stay with a veteran lineup of Zaza Pachulia, Devin Harris, Horford, Stevenson and Williams.
“Lou got into a rhythm and we were going to ride it,” Drew said. “I had to make a decision whether to bring Jeff and Kyle (Korver) back but the group that was in there had a good rhythm going and I didn’t want to do anything to disrupt that. We decided to ride Lou’s hot hand. He made some really good baskets.”
The Hawks led by as many as 10 points in the first half. Jeff Teague and Al Horford each had eight first-quarter points to lead the early offense. Horford scored six of the Hawks’ first eight points of the game. Ivan Johnson provided energy off the bench with six points and two rebounds in the half.
The Thunder stormed back and closed the second quarter on a 22-9 run to take a 51-47 lead into intermission.
The Hawks rallied in the third quarter, tied the game on four occasions and took two leads. Anthony Morrow drained a 3-pointer for a late three-point lead. The Hawks took a 75-74 advantage into the decisive final quarter.
It was the Hawks’ second straight win over the Thunder. They won their only meeting last season, 97-90, playing without Joe Johnson in Atlanta.
So, that Williams signing looks pretty good now.
“I would hope,” Williams said with a smile. “We will see. It’s early.”
- Chris Vivlamore
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