Al Horford insists the Hawks have regained their successful early-season form.
He boldly stated his stance immediately following the Hawks’ improbable comeback from a 27-point second-quarter deficit in a victory over the Celtics last Friday.
“I told the guys it was going to be a different second half of the season for us,” the center said. “We are going to be better, more competitive. This is a perfect example.”
On Tuesday, in preparation for Wednesday’s game against the Raptors, Horford also pointed to Sunday’s two-point loss at the Knicks. It was a game the Hawks led by a point with less than 30 seconds to play before two questionable foul calls went against them. The loss snapped the Hawks’ two-game win streak which followed a stretch of eight losses in 10 games.
“I just think that we found ourselves through that slump of how to play, like we were playing earlier in the year, moving the ball around, being more aggressive and be more aggressive defensively,” Horford said. “I think that we’ve don’t have it all put together yet, but we are headed in the right direction. You can see that. We lost our last game, but we fought. There was a point there when the game could have gotten away from us and we stayed with it and we kept pushing.”
Horford leads the Hawks against the Raptors on a roll. He was a perfect 8-for-8 from the field against the Knicks. In doing so, he became the fifth Hawk since the 1985-86 season to shoot 1.000 from the field while making at least eight shots. The others were Dikembe Mutombo (11-for-11, 12/14/99 and 8-for-8, 4/13/99), Doc Rivers (10-for-10, 4/4/86 and 8-for-8, 1/22/86), Duane Ferrell (9-for-9, 2/24/93) and Stacey Augmon (8-for-8, 11/9/95).
Horford has made his last 14 field goal attempts with his last miss coming in the second quarter against the Celtics.
According to coach Larry Drew the Hawks’ recent efforts are a function of their mental makeup – something not always to be counted on in past seasons. Drew attributes the turnaround to experience – both gained over the course of this season and with the veterans added to the roster in the offseason.
“I’ve noticed in situations this year, just comparing it to my first couple years, this team doesn’t panic in situations where we have in the past,” Drew said. “I sense that strongly in the Boston game. As bad as it got in that first half, even during our timeouts, there was not a sense where everybody was panicking. When we got in at halftime you could still sense it. Whereas in the past, in that situation, the end result I knew wouldn’t be pretty. Now, I think we are mentally much stronger than teams of the past in persevering through those situations.”
Anthony Morrow returned to full-contact practice Tuesday and the guard says he “definitely” will play Wednesday against the Raptors. Morrow missed the past 17 games with a right hip strain followed by a sore lower back.
Morrow said it’s been tough sitting out the longest stretch since suffering a sprained MCL in his second year in Golden State.
“That’s why I sit on the bench every game,” Morrow said. “I want to stay engaged. They made little changes to certain plays and I wanted to make sure I could come in and be right with the flow. It was tough but I wanted to stay engaged.”
No date has been set for surgery on Lou Williams’ torn right ACL. The guard made a brief visit at the end of Hawks practice Tuesday but quickly retreated to the locker room after saying a few hellos.