By Kevin Mallory (Special to the Daily World)
In their last two home games, the Atlanta Hawks have been involved in contests featuring big leads. Against the Philadelphia 76ers on Feb. 8, they fell behind by more than 30 points. But against the Charlotte Bobcats on Feb. 12, Atlanta went up by as much as 22.
However, the one thing these games had in common was the end result: a home loss for the Hawks.
In contrast to a listless 117-83 defeat at the hands of the Sixers, the Hawks raced out to a big lead against the Bobcats, only to see it evaporate in the second half.
Charlotte’s Shaun Livingston came off the bench to contribute 22 points, six rebounds and five assists, and Stephen Jackson (32 points) hit a long jumper over two defenders to give the Bobcats an 88-86 victory at the buzzer.
“You can’t give up a lead that big at home,” Hawks’ forward Josh Smith said. Smith finished with 28 points and six rebounds.
Atlanta’s big lead began to dwindle in the third quarter. The Hawks shot long jumpers throughout the second half after dominating in the paint in the first half. Following a 51 percent shooting performance in the first half, Atlanta wound up with 40.2 percent overall on the night.
“We settled for a ton of jump shots,” Hawks head coach Larry Drew said. “We start playing fast, we start going for homeruns, and then we start settling. That’s what happened in the second half.”
However, Drew appreciated Charlotte’s tenacity and desire.
“You have to give Charlotte credit. They kept grinding, kept fighting,” he added.
Atlanta’s Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford have both struggled offensively in their last two outings. In the last two losses, Johnson and Crawford have combined to hit on only 11-for-39 shots for 25 points combined.
Al Horford returned from a two-game absence due to a back contusion, an injury he suffered at the end of the Hawks’ last home victory over the Clippers when Blake Griffin was called for a flagrant foul against him. Horford played 41 minutes and contributed 16 points and 10 rebounds versus the Bobcats.
“I felt okay. I can’t say I’m all the way back,” Horford said. “I don’t have lift yet, but besides that, I felt good enough to be out there playing.”
These two home losses precede a seven-game road trip that began on Feb. 14 at Detroit.
“We have to find ourselves,” Smith said. “We’re pretty good on the road, so I’m really not worried about gaining our confidence back. We just have to play.”
“Hopefully, we can go out on the road and get well,” Drew added. “I told them it’s a great time to go out on the road.”