A 22-point fourth-quarter lead was not big enough.
The Hawks needed nine points in double overtime from Jeff Teague for a 126-119 victory over the Pistons Wednesday night at Philips Arena. The Hawks nearly gift-wrapped and gave away a game they dominated for three and a half quarters.
The Pistons erased the huge Hawks’ lead as the final comeback points coming on Austin Daye’s 3-pointer with four seconds remaining in regulation. Al Horford hit the first of two free throws to tie the score at 101-101 with 1.8 seconds left and force overtime.
The Pistons got five points from Will Bynum in the first overtime but the Hawks answered with a 3-pointer by Lou Williams and a basket by Horford.
“It wasn’t as much as what they were doing as what we were doing,” coach Larry Drew said. “We got a little complacent. We started playing the lead. We stopped executing. Defensively, as good as we were in the first half, we were just as bad in the second half. We had defensive breakdowns. We had too many lapses. We were leaving 3-point shooters. Our coverages weren’t as sharp as they were in the first half. Once (the lead got cut) to 10, I could see our guys looking at the scoreboard.”
Teague gave the Hawks the lead for good, 113-112, on a 3-pointer with 2:46 remaining in the second overtime. He added a steal and two free throws after a clear-path foul, a layup and two more free throws. The Hawks also got five points from Kyle Korver, including a big 3-pointer, and four points from Williams in the second overtime.
Teague said he was eager to make amends for a fourth-quarter defensive lapse on the Pistons’ Will Bynum.
“I was just trying to be aggressive,” Teague said. “I felt like I was the reason the lead was cut, that play when Bynum made that play at half-court, stole the ball and got the and-one layup (with 8:22 remaining that cut the Hawks’ lead to 89-74). That switched the momentum. I know we were up by 15 (points) but I thought that really got them going. When I got an opportunity to get back on the floor I just wanted to make the most of it.
The Hawks jumped to their commanding lead thanks to Josh Smith.
First-quarter score: Smith 14, Pistons 12.
The Hawks star forward outscored the entire Pistons team in the opening period. Add the rest of Smith’s teammates and the Hawks held a 15-point advantage after just 12 minutes. It was not enough.
Smith finished with 31 points, the most by a Hawks player this season and seven off his career-high (38 at Milwaukee, Nov. 17, 2007). It was Smith’s first 30-point game, and 18th of his career, since he scored 34 at Philadelphia on March 31. Smith added 10 rebounds, six assists and two blocks.
“I was being aggressive,” Smith said. “I was just trying to get the energy up of our players. I started off early with it.”
The Hawks (17-9) won their second straight and kept a firm hold on third place in the Eastern Conference. It was their third straight win over the Pistons and ninth straight at Philips Arena.
The Hawks also got double-figure scoring from Horford (22), Williams (18), Teague (17) and Anthony Morrow (16). Morrow scored seven of his points in the fourth quarter.
The Pistons (9-22) had a two-game win streak snapped and have won only three road games all season. The Pistons have losing streaks of eight (to start the season) and six games.
The Pistons were led by Bynum with 31 points. He was part of 85 bench-points from the Pistons. Bynum made 4-of-6 3-pointers after entering the game with three from long range all season.
The Hawks were nearly done in by their free-throw shooting. After making the first nine, the Hawks made just six of their next 14. They did ice the game by making all eight free throws in double overtime.
“It hasn’t caught up to us yet where we’ve lost the game but if we don’t start making our free throws, particularly in crunch-time situations, we can be in that situation very easily,” Drew said.
Smith finished with 21 first-half points, five rebounds, an assist and a block. Smith shot 9 for 12, including a making a 3-point attempt. The point total was the most in a half by a Hawk player this season.
The Hawks built the early lead with first-quarter runs of 9-1 and 13-0. During the later run, which increased the Hawks’ lead to 16 points at 26-10, the Pistons went a full five minutes without scoring. They missed eight straight shots during the ice-cold stretch.
The Pistons closed to within four points at halftime, 50-45, as they doubled their shooting percentage from 25 to 50 percent.
However, the Hawks pushed the lead back to 19 points, 81-62, at the end of the third quarter. The lead grew to as many as 22 points in the fourth quarter. The Pistons cut into the lead with six 3-pointers in the final quarter, setting up the late-game dramatics.
“I’m just glad we won,” Horford said. “I know it didn’t go the way we wanted but I’m just glad we got this win.”
- Chris Vivlamore