Vivlamore reporting from New Orleans.
They Hawks were tired as they started their fourth game in five days. Coach Larry Drew admitted to such before Tuesday’s game against the Hornets.
They didn’t wake up until the second half. After sleep-walking through the first 24 minutes, with many defensive lapses, the Hawks erased an early double-digit deficit en route to a 95-86 victory over the Hornets Tuesday at the New Orleans Arena.
The Hawks outscored the Hornets 28-14 in the third quarter to turn around a six-point deficit. They led 72-64 going into the final quarter thanks to a 15-2 run early in the third that changed the momentum. Josh Smith had 10 points in the period to cap an impressive statistical effort of 23 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists, four blocks and three steals. With his 12th board, he reached the 5,000 rebound career milestone.
“We had a letdown in the first two quarters and I wanted to come out with the energy and effort,” Smith said. “It so happened that I made some shots in the third quarter. Everybody was feeding me. My teammates were looking for me and I think I was real efficient.”
The Hawks (20-10) led by as many as eight points early in the fourth quarter and fought back the Hornets. They sealed the win by scoring the final six points.
Drew said he was going to ride Smith’s hot hand even though he usually rest the forward at the end of the third quarter.
“He was phenomenal,” Drew said. “Every physical play where that ball was involved, he was there. He really made an impact. He did it on both ends of the floor. He defended. He blocked shots. Offensively, he got into a real good rhythm and we started just playing off him.”
Drew said he told Smith to motion to him should he need that rest. He never got a signal.
Al Horford added 20 points for the Hawks. Zaza Pachulia had another big night with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Kyle Kover chipped in with 14 points, with 11 coming in the second half. The Hawks didn’t attempt their first free throw of the game until Pachulia went to the line with 1:17 remaining in the third quarter.
“We wanted to bounce back from last night (a 123-104 loss at Houston),” Pachulia said. “It wasn’t pretty at all. I wasn’t happy with my effort. We wanted to come out and play with energy and that’s what we did.”
The Hornets (7-24), with the worst record in the Western Conference, were led by Ryan Anderson with 23 points. The Hornets got 11 points from Eric Gordon, who only played nine games last season and had arthroscopic surgery on his knee because of a bone bruise.
The Hawks finished 3-1 in their tiresome four-game span.
The Hornets led by as many as 11 points in the first quarter and held on for a 50-44 halftime lead.
The Hornets did most of their damage from 3-point range. They finished the first half shooting 63.6 percent (7 of 11) from long range. Anderson led the way with 13 first-half points, including three 3-pointers. The Hawks shot just 28.6 percent (4 of 14) from long range in the opening 24 minutes. That included 3-pointers from Smith and Korver in the final minute.
“It wasn’t a strategy move at all,” Drew said of the second-half difference defensively. “It was matter of us putting forth the effort and making sure we made a conscious effort of getting to their 3-point shooters. The second half we did. (Anderson) made a couple more 3’s but we were there to contest them and that’s all you can ask.
Smith had 11 first-half points and Horford had 10. Pachulia played 10 minutes in the first half with eight points and seven rebounds. The other Hawks starters struggled in the first half as Lou Williams (5), Korver (3) and Jeff Teague (2) combined to make 4 of 18 shots.
“That was the encouraging thing I told them at halftime,” Drew said. “(Those three players) were 4 for 18 from the field but we were only six points down.”
The Hawks have a couple days to rest up before playing at Detroit Friday and home against Boston Saturday.
- Chris Vivlamore
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