Jeff Teague scored 19 points and dished out 11 assists and an inspired but short-handed bench sparked the Hawks to their fifth consecutive win, a 104-93 victory over the Clippers on Saturday night at Philips Arena.
The Hawks (8-4) outscored the Clippers 34-19 in the third quarter, and their bench, missing two key players, outscored the Clippers’ 20-0 in the first half. It was the Clippers’ (8-5) third consecutive loss and ended their four-game trip.
“It was a really gutsy win for our ball club,” coach Larry Drew said. “I thought the bench did a phenomenal job, not a good job, a phenomenal job in getting us going.”
Lou Williams, one of those bench players, sparked the team in the second with nine points. He finished with 18 of the reserves’ 31 points.
“I was just playing aggressive,” he said. “That’s what I bring to the table, just to be aggressive and try to create as many plays as I can.”
Zaza Pachulia, who started, had his first double-double this season, with 19 points and 12 rebounds, as five Hawks scored at least 10 points. The Hawks will play host to Charlotte on Wednesday and will try to extend their win streak to six.
The Hawks were without guard Devin Harris, whose status is described as day-to-day because of an injured big toe on his left foot. He has averaged 6.2 points per game. They also watched DeShawn Stevenson closely, as Drew said the team normally does when playing the second of back-to-back games. They ended up not needing Stevenson, who has averaged 6.1 points per game.
They were also without Josh Smith for most of the first half after he picked up two fouls in the first 5:18. He and coach Drew had a short but terse exchange as he was subbed out, but the bench carried the team in the second quarter as the Hawks outscored the Clippers 30-17 to take a 51-41 lead into the half. Drew downplayed the severity of their conversation, pointing out that Smith responded in the second half to score all 17 of his points.
“Like I say, when we find our stride we are going to be a pretty good team,” Smith said. “We are starting to gel and everybody’s starting to figure out. We look pretty good.”
The Hawks opened a 27-point lead before the Clippers cut it to 10 behind the sharpshooting of former Hawk Jamal Crawford, with less than seven minutes remaining.
Kyle Korver made a 3-pointer in the corner to stop the run as the Clippers’ comeback ran out of steam.
Drew said the key for the Hawks was to defend the Clippers’ pick-and-roll and match their rugged style, something they failed to do in the second half of their only previous meeting this season, an 89-76 win for L.A.
Drew also said he didn’t want the Hawks to fall in love with jumpers, something they had mostly avoided during the win streak. That didn’t happen early against the Clippers. Only eight of the Hawks’ 21 points came in the free-throw lane in the first quarter, but they trailed by only three, despite the Clippers looking much fresher.
Teague and Williams began attacking more in the second quarter, helping the Hawks roll off a 16-0 run to take a 35-24 lead with less than eight minutes remaining in the half. Pachulia scored five points in the run and Teague added four.
“We were timid in the first quarter,” Teague said. “But Lou came in and made plays and we fed off him.”
– Doug Roberson, AJC