In their third overtime game in a row – the first time that’s happened since 1997 – the Atlanta Hawks (17-13) managed to find a way to overcome Al Jefferson and a confident Charlotte Bobcats team 118-116 Saturday evening.
The Southeastern Division showdown saw the Hawks without leading scorer, center Al Horford, who left Thursday’s 127-125 double-overtime win in Cleveland due to a complete tear of his right pectoral muscle.
Horford is listed as out indefinitely.
Filling in for Horford was veteran forward Elton Brand. Brand, who has been averaging 2.9 points and 3.6 rebounds in 11.7 minutes per game, finished the evening with three points and four rebounds.
“It’s good to get the win, even with Al out,” Brand said. “I wanted to step up but Lou Williams stepped up, Jeff Teague had his night and Paul stepped up.”
The Bobcats, who have been winless against all other divisional opponents, were looking to prevent their losing streak to Atlanta from extending to 10 games.
Hawks forward Paul Millsap had other intentions as he had 12 of Atlanta’s 25 points in the first quarter.
With the Hawks seemingly in control after the first, a great second quarter from the Bobcats give the visitors the lead at the half, 50-45, as Atlanta shot just 26 percent (5 of 19) in the quarter.
“I don’t think we played that well, I’m not sure how much fuel was in everyone’s tank,” Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer said. “[Charlotte] continued to compete and they continued to stay with it, but luckily, our guys found a way to get the win tonight. We just have to take the time and learn how to play without Al.”
At halftime, fans were treated to a Halftime Skills Challenge featuring football players from Duke University and Texas A&M, who are scheduled to meet at the Chick-fil-A Bowl on New Years Eve, including 2012 Heisman trophy winner Johnny Manziel.
Manziel displayed his constant competitive nature even in fun and games as he could be seen throwing a tantrum after missing a simple layup in the challenge.
Charlotte was in full control in the second half until Atlanta saw their first lead since the second quarter return in the fourth with less than eight minutes left to play.
Hawks shooting guard Kyle Korver made it 99 games with a three point field goal during the fourth quarter comeback.
The most important three on the night would come from an unlikely hero, center Pero Antic.
With time winding down in regulation and the Hawks behind, Antic sent the game into overtime as he threw up a baseline jumper outside the arc, tying the game at 101-101.
“Everybody was covered, so I just let it go,” Antic said. “A win is a win and this feels good. I’m happy for the fans and I’m happy for the team.”
In overtime, the Hawks would solidify their victory at the free throw line, going 12 for 12 at the charity strike and Lou Williams sinking 10 straight at the line to preserve the win.
Three Hawks ended the evening with 20 or more points.
Millsap led the way with 33 points, and13 rebounds, Jeff Teague totaled 20 points and Lou Williams came off the bench and had 28 points.
“A lot of times, we try to adjust our games by timeouts,” Williams said. “I really wanted to focus on making my free throws, but no more overtimes, we gotta get it in the fourth quarter.”
The win continues Atlanta’s five game winning streak at home.
Al Jefferson led the way for the Bobcats with a double-double, 24 points and 23 rebounds and Gerald Henderson right behind him with 22 points.