MEMPHIS – The Hawks gave a dose of the third-quarter medicine they’ve had to swallow of late.
The Hawks erased an eight-point first-half deficit with one of their most impressive quarters of the season en route to a 93-83 victory over the Grizzles Saturday night at FedExForum. They outscored the Grizzlies, owners of the NBA’s top record, 32-13 coming out of intermission which included a 20-0 run. Lou Williams scored the final 11 points of the stretch, including three straight 3-pointers.
In their previous three games the Hawks blew late leads, holding on for two wins.
“At home we’ve been having trouble holding leads and giving them back,” said center Al Horford, who led the Hawks with his fifth straight double-double effort. “Tonight our focus was great.”
The Hawks (12-5) now have victories over all three Western Conference division leaders in the Grizzlies, Thunder and Clippers. They’ve won three straight and nine of their past 10 games.
Horford had 19 points and 14 rebounds in the win. Josh Smith scored a game-high 24 points with eight rebounds. Williams finished with 21 points, with 13 coming in the pivotal third quarter. Jeff Teague added 13 points to round out the double-digit scorers.
“I felt like I shot the ball well in our past game in Atlanta but I had four turnovers and no assists,” Williams said. “I really didn’t impact the game. I didn’t want to have another night like that. I got off to a slow start. I think I was 1-for-6 at halftime and it was looking like I was going to have another night where I didn’t impact the game. I just went out with a blaze.”
The Grizzlies (14-4) lost for only the second time at home and suffered their worst defeat of the season.
The Hawks trailed 47-41 at halftime and were down by as many as eight points in the second quarter. After an early imploring by coach Larry Drew to turn up their energy, the Hawks went on a 30-7 run, which included the 20-0 stretch.
In the decisive third quarter, the Hawks:
*Shot 60 percent from the field (12 of 20) while the Grizzlies shot 31.6 percent (6 of 19).
*Held a 13-7 rebound advantage.
*Had nine assists against two for the Grizzlies.
*Forced four turnovers, including three steals.
Horford said the key to the third quarter was Teague.
“He came in at halftime and you could tell that he was bothered by the way the first half went,” Horford said. “So he made an effort to play better and pick up the pace of the game and I think that was the difference.”
Teague said he focus was the run against the bigger Grizzlies.
“I just know that they are a really big team and we had to use our speed, athleticism, get up and down and cause havoc on the defensive end,” Teague said. “I challenged (Horford) and Zaza (Pachulia) and they responded. Zaza came out with the most energy and was banging on the boards.
“When we come out and play like that, we are a really good team. It starts with me. When I play with a lot of energy I think I play well. If I come out lackadaisical or sluggish it goes through the whole team. I put a lot of that on my shoulders. I thank Al for boosting me up.”
Pachulia’s effort won’t fully show in the boxscore. He had just one point, but he pulled down nine rebounds, fought for loose balls and defended Zach Randolph.
The Hawks led by as many as 15 points in the third quarter. The Grizzlies made a fourth-quarter run. Rudy Gay scored nine of his 17 points in the final period. The Grizzlies used a 9-0 lead to pull within five points, 75-69, but they get no closer.
“We did a really fine job, I thought, once we got a little bit of a lead we maintained our composure even when they made a couple of runs,” Drew said. “That’s just a huge, huge win for us – getting back on the road, having played last night, against a team that has the best record in the league.”
Next up, the Hawks travel to Miami to take on the Heat. The Hawks could make another statement of where they stand. They are not concerned with that.
“We are just playing,” Teague said. “We like staying under the radar. We are going to just keep playing and try to knock off everybody.”
- Chris Vivlamore