Vivlamore reporting from Portland.
The Hawks stole a victory – literally – from the Trail Blazers.
The Hawks jumped to an early double-digit lead thanks to seven first-quarter steals. However, they lost a 15-point lead and had to come from behind for a 95-87 victory Monday night at the Rose Garden.
Al Horford scored six straight points, all assisted by Josh Smith, in the final four minutes after the big lead had turned into a two-point deficit. The Trail Blazers used a 15-2 run in the fourth quarter to take an 82-80 lead with 5:40 remaining, their first advantage of the night.
Horford hit a 19-foot jumper, a dunk and a post-up move with the Blazers’ only answer a three-point play from LaMarcus Aldridge. Horford’s last basket broke an 87-87 tie with 2:08 remaining.
After a Jeff Teague layup, Smith drew an offensive foul on Aldridge and Kyle Korver and Teague each sunk a pair of free throws to seal in the victory.
“It was a matter of the fourth quarter and it was time for us to win the game,” Horford said of the baskets drawn up after timeouts.
Only one night early, the Hawks came apart in the fourth quarter in a loss to the Clippers. Monday, they stood their ground.
“That was a gutsy win by our guys,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said. “We fell into a similar situation last night in L.A. where we played well for three quarter and in the fourth quarter we collapsed. Tonight, we weathered the storm. We knew they would make a run. As I told the guys at halftime, it’s going to be a matter of whether we accept the challenge or we fold the tent like we did last night. Tonight, we accepted the challenge.”
The Hawks (3-3) improved have split the start of this four-game West Coast road trip. They have games with the Warriors and Kings remaining.
Smith, who along with Lou Williams was questionable right up to game time with a stomach illness, had 19 points and 11 rebounds. Horford had 15 points and 10 rebounds. Korver finished with 16 points, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range, Teague had 13 and Williams 11 to round out the double-digit scorers.
“Coach hit the nail on the head at halftime,” Horford said. “He said they are going to make a run at you. You have to keep your composure. You can’t let that affect you. We were doing well until they made a run and took the lead and that’s when we remembered the Clippers game and I felt like tonight we grew as a team.”
J.J. Hickson had 19 points and 18 rebounds for the Trail Blazers (2-5). Nicolas Batum also scored 19 points.
The Hawks’ first-quarter steals were one off the franchise record for steals in a quarter of eight set March 6, 1992 against the Pacers. The Hawks finished with a season-high 14 steals.
The Blazers missed their first four shots and the Hawks turned three steals into points as they took a 9-0 lead. The lead grew to as many as 15 in the second quarter. The Hawks fought back several Blazer runs before finally losing their lead late in the game.
“We were playing passing lanes,” Smith said. “They were a little lazy with the ball in that first half and we took advantage of it.”
The Hawks led by as many as 13 in the first quarter. Only 8:44 into the game, Drew had already gone 10 deep on his roster. All 10 entered the scoring column by the second quarter. Drew said going to his bench was part of his strategy in the second of back-to-back road games.
Both Smith and Williams said they were fine after the game, although Drew said he could see them dragging during the game. The Hawks were to have an off day Tuesday before playing the Warriors Wednesday.
“I feel OK,” Smith said. “I’m still not where I need to be at. I fought through it. I didn’t want it to take over mentally. My wind wasn’t there like I wanted it to be but we got it done. I thank my mom for sending a prayer out over the phone.”
Guard Devin Harris left in the second quarter with a left hamstring strain and did not return.
The Trail Blazers’ streak of consecutive sellouts ended at 195 games.