Smith leads depleted Hawks past Bobcats, 104-92

John Delong, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Atlanta Hawks are terribly short-handed these days, but it didn't seem to matter on Wednesday night.
The injury-depleted Hawks got big-time production from Josh Smith and major contributions from several others, and the result was a 104-92 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats.
Smith finished with 30 points -- one shy of his season high -- plus 13 rebounds, eight assists and three blocked shots on a night when the Hawks led by as many as 17 and never let the Bobcats closer than seven in the second half.
Smith dished the credit around the locker room afterward, in what he called a gutty performance under the circumstances.
The Hawks were without Al Horford (sore left calf), Devin Harris (sprained left ankle), Anthony Morrow (sore lower back) and Zaza Pachulia (sore right Achilles). Plus, Lou Williams (torn ACL right knee) is out for the rest of the season.
"It was a big win for us, and the most exciting thing for me to see was how everybody came in and stepped up and played big minutes when their name was called," Smith said.
Kyle Korver added 21 points, hitting 5 of 6 from 3-point range. Ivan Johnson had 12 points and 15 rebounds. Jeff Teague had 10 points and six assists, and John Jenkins and Jannero Pargo scored eight apiece off the bench.
"We had a bunch of guys step up," said Korver, who played 41 minutes. "I thought everyone that played played well, and that's a good sign. We were able to get out and run tonight, and that's when we're at our best. We knew as long as we played hard and rebounded well, we were going to have a good shot at winning tonight. The guys stepped up. That's what it's all about."
Smith had 16 points in the first half as the Hawks pulled out to a 53-46 halftime lead. Then he continued to dominate as the Hawks built a 70-53 lead midway through the third period. He finished 15 of 24 from the field, and five of his 13 rebounds came on the offensive end.
"I just wanted to play aggressive -- play aggressive but play in the flow of the offense," Smith said. "I didn't want to feel like I had a lot of pressure on myself on both ends of the court. I was just able to bring the team together and say the right things in order for us to get motivated, understanding that this Bobcats team plays extremely hard, especially at home, even though they've been struggling. We were able to take the crowd out of it early and then whenever they made their runs, we were able to answer with runs of our own."
Hawks coach Larry Drew felt that the play of Johnson was just as vital. The 6-8 Johnson had a season high with his 15 rebounds, on a night when the Hawks held a 45-41 rebound edge.
"Obviously with no Al Horford and no Zaza Pachulia, I was concerned about how our big men would play," Drew said. "But that was the answer tonight. I thought Ivan Johnson stepped in and did a phenomenal job. He was a presence on the floor. He scored. He rebounded. He took a charge. He came in and gave us a big lift tonight."
The win snapped a six-game road losing streak for the Hawks, who had lost eight of their previous 11. They are now 24-18.
Ramon Sessions led Charlotte with 27 points, and Ben Gordon scored 15. But Kemba Walker, who scored a career-high 35 points on Monday in a loss to Houston, was just 4 of 11 from the field and was held to 11 points.
"Defensively, we did a really good job of just being on the string and making the plays we had to make," Drew said. "Kemba Walker is ... the head of the snake with this team, and I thought we did a pretty good job on him. Even the shots he made were tough shots."
The Bobcats are now 10-32 and have lost eight of their last nine.
"The frustration's high," coach Mike Dunlap said. "I know we have a better team in that locker room than how we played tonight."
NOTES: The win gave the Hawks a 4-0 season sweep of the Bobcats. The Hawks also won 101-91 in Charlotte on Nov. 23, 94-91 in Atlanta on Nov. 28 and 113-90 in Atlanta on Dec. 13. ... The Hawks have beaten the Bobcats eight straight times. ... The Bobcats' last home win came on Nov. 21 over Toronto. The NBA record for most consecutive home losses is 19, set by the 1993-94 Dallas Mavericks. ... The Hawks will return home to play Boston on Friday night. The Bobcats will close out this four-game homestand on Saturday night against Minnesota. ... Byron Mullens missed his 15th straight game for the Bobcats with a sprained left ankle, and there is no timetable for his return. ... Korver has now made at least one 3-pointer in 36 straight games, the longest active streak in the NBA.

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