ATLANTA (AP)—Josh Smith is growing up.
One day after turning 19, Smith came through with the biggest plays at both ends of the court, and the Atlanta Hawks snapped a nine-game losing streak with a 96-92 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday night.
Smith broke a 92-all tie, scoring off an offensive rebound with 17.6 seconds remaining. Then, he blocked an attempted 3-pointer to ensure Atlanta’s third win in 17 games.
“We’ve got to be patient with him,” teammate Antoine Walker said. “Sometimes, it seems like the game is moving pretty fast for him. But he makes up for a lot of mistakes with his athleticism. He’s going to get better and better as the year goes along.”
Atlanta overcame a season-high 36 points by Allen Iverson, who scored half of those in the first quarter.
The 76ers built an 11-point lead before halftime but wound up losing their fifth in a row against a team that had dropped its two previous games by an average of 22.5 points.
“I’ve got no words for it,” Iverson said. “I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to say anything wrong. I just want to be as positive as I can, because I know the atmosphere around here and in Philadelphia is going to be tough when we get back.”
After Marc Jackson hit a tying jumper with 40.9 seconds remaining, the Hawks put the ball in the hands of Al Harrington. He backed in on Aaron McKie with the shot clock winding down, but the shot was short.
Smith found an opening between two Philadelphia players, grabbed the rebound and dropped in the shot over Kenny Thomas.
“I was just trying to crash the ball,” Smith said. “I saw it was going to be short, so I just went to the other side of the basket. Luckily, no one was there.”
After a timeout, Iverson drove along the baseline and found McKie in the corner, camped behind the 3-point line. But Smith soared through the air to block the shot, the Hawks picked up the loose ball and Harrington was fouled. He made both free throws with 8.5 seconds to go, sealing the victory.
“(McKie) was wide open, but he went up real slow,” Smith said. “I knew I had time to get out there and contest it.”
Smith wasn’t done. Iverson threw up a desperation 3-pointer and the youngster grabbed his 10th rebound, a career best, as the horn sounded. Smith flipped his red headband into the crowd and gave Harrington a defiant chest-bump to celebrate.
“It was satisfying to finally get off this slump,” Smith said. “Now, we can get past all that and put it behind us.”
Coach Mike Woodson considered pulling Smith early in the fourth quarter. Fortunately for the rookie coach, he changed his mind.
Smith dominated the final period, beginning with a dunk off a missed shot that put the Hawks up 77-76, their first lead since the opening minute of the second quarter.
“I was about ready to pull him and then he dunked the ball,” Woodson said. “I said, ‘Well, what the hell, I better leave him in there,’ and he turned out to be the player of the game.”
Smith equaled his career high with 11 points, eight coming in the final quarter, and wound up with his first double-double. At times, it seemed the 76ers were just standing around in awe of the youngster.
“It’s a 19-year-old kid who comes in and makes big plays down the stretch, like he’s been in the league a long time,” Woodson said. “He’s come a long way since this summer.”
Walker led the Hawks with 22 points and 12 rebounds, Harrington had 21 points and Peja Drobnjak chipped in with a season-best 20.
Kyle Korver scored 14 for Philadelphia, hitting four 3-pointers.
Iverson couldn’t keep it going, though. He missed eight straight shots at one point, finishing 12-of-28 from the field.
“The most important thing for us to do as a squad is to stay close, protect each other, and not point fingers or get down,” Iverson said. “I understand we have a long way to go.”
Thomas picked up a technical in the final minute of the second quarter for arguing a walking call on a drive to the basket. Thomas felt he was fouled. … The Hawks, last in the NBA in free-throw shooting at 65.4 percent, improved that number by going 30-of-40 at the line. … Philadelphia’s losing streak is its worst since a six-game slide in January 2003.