ATLANTA - Josh Smith wasn't having much of a first half against the Denver Nuggets on his 27th birthday, with an anemic four points and four rebounds. But he revved it up in the second half to finish with 16 points and 13 rebounds and made the play that saved the game as the Atlanta Hawks squeaked by the Denver Nuggets 108-104 Wednesday night at Philips Arena.
It was, yes, "the icing on the cake," Smith laughed, when Ty Lawson lost the ball off his foot with 35 seconds in the game and Smith scrambled to grab it, then finished with a dunk and drew a foul to seal the win.
"The whole game was like a tug-of-war match," Smith said. "We were playing back and forth. We were able to get some crucial stops down the stretch and were able to pull the win out."
Al Horford had 25 points and 12 rebounds to lead the rusty Hawks (10-5), who hadn't played since losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers 113-111 last Friday, and it showed in a lack of early energy that picked up only when Zaza Pachulia came off the bench for 11 points in the second quarter.
"I was really shocked how fast [the Nuggets] got the ball out and got it up the floor, even on made baskets," Hawks coach Larry Drew said.
He meant Lawson, who came out blazing to start the game and again to start the second half, scoring a season high 32 points - and was a perfect 5 for 5 in 3-point shots -- to lead the Nuggets (9-10). Danilo Gallinari added 16 points and Corey Brewer came off the bench for 19 points.
But instead of beaming about his scoring afterwards, he was lamenting the two turnovers he had in the final 35 seconds.
"We've just got to get better in late-game situations," he said. "Me, included. Letting teams get offensive rebounds, put-backs and turnovers, that's what killed us tonight. If we could have controlled that we could have won by at least 15 points."
The Nuggets, who were averaging 16 turnovers a game, committed 13 in the first half and 20 for the game -- leading to 20 points -- but managed to hang around the Hawks all night.
"I don't know how they got so many shots in the paint," Nuggets coach George Karl said of the Hawks. "When they weren't making shots, they got offensive rebounds that hurt us."
NOTES: Hawks coach Larry Drew is constructing his lineups by feel rather than attempting to match up against specific opponents. "Sometimes you've got to roll the dice. Sometimes it's good to go with your gut and see if they adjust to you or see if it just works." ... Drew said the starting guard combination of Jeff Teague and Devin Harris should produce more pick and rolls. ... Kyle Korver, who had started all but one of the Hawks' games -- he missed last Friday's game versus the Cleveland Cavaliers with back spasms -- was away from the team for the birth of his first child. The betting is that, boy or girl, the baby's name will start with a "K." ... John Jenkins has been recalled from s short stint in the D-League; he was assigned there because the Hawks had a stretch of off days and didn't practice over the weekend. ... The Nuggets were without Kosta Koufos, who was back at team hotel with the flu. Timofev Mozgov got the start at center. ... Nuggets coach George Karl says that Wilson Chandler (left hip rehab) is maybe two weeks from playing, possibly longer. ... Asked about Danilo Gallinari's poor shooting, Karl noted that he shoots great in practice and in the gym but that his success hasn't translated to the court. Yet. ... The nameplates above the Nuggets' lockers use their nicknames -- A.I. (Andre Iguodala), C-Brew (Corey Brewer), Q (Quincy Miller) and so on -- with two exceptions: Andre Miller and Danilo Gallinari, whose nameplates are their last names.