Larry Drew had to deliver another halftime speech.
The Hawks coach needed to say something for his team to erase a 13-point second-quarter deficit against the depleted Raptors. It worked in the end – but not before some dramatic final seconds.
The Hawks had to survive a mad scramble under the Raptors basket for a 93-92 victory Wednesday night at Philips Arena. Trailing by a point, the Raptors couldn’t get a game-winning attempt as the ball took more bounces than numbered ping pongs in a lottery drawing.
“We played some pretty good defense,” Josh Smith said. “(DeMar) DeRozen lost the ball. Kyle (Korver) kind of grabbed it, fumbled it a little bit. It got back to (Amir) Anderson. We contested the shot. After that, I don’t know what happened.”
The Hawks got their game-winner when Smith found Al Horford under the basket for a dunk that was the final margin with 21.5 seconds remaining.
The Hawks (26-19) have won four of their past five games. They have now won 12 of the past 14 games against the Raptors.
Horford led the Hawks with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Smith added 20 points and 11 rebounds and Korver finished with 17 points, including five 3-pointers
Korver passed Dell Curry for 34th on the NBA’s all-time 3-point list. He also continued his streak of 38 straight games with a 3-pointer.
“It was a good play,” Smith said of the final basket. “They were hedging out on Kyle all night long, which is expected because he can knock down jump shot. He has a very quick release. The play was run almost to perfection. Al set the screen and slipped in hard. I was able to thread it down the middle and we got a bucket off it. It’s our fourth-and-one play.”
The Hawks finished with 10 3-pointers, setting a franchise record of five consecutive games with an least 10 made 3-pointers.
The Raptors (16-30) have lost two straight and seven of their past nine games. DeMar DeRozen led the Raptors with 23 points. John Lucas III added 19 points.
Still, Drew had to deliver a “candid” halftime speech. The Hawks have won three straight home games but had to overcome deficits of 18, 27 and 13 points to do so.
“It’s my job,” Drew said. “Is it getting old? I would like to come in at halftime and not say some of those things.”
The Raptors acquired Rudy Gay from the Grizzlies as part of a three-team trade that was officially completed during the fourth quarter. One hour before the game the Toronto principles in the deal, starters Jose Calderon and Ed Davis, left Philips Arena in street clothes. That left the Raptors with nine healthy players with four others on the sideline injured.
The Hawks scored the first seven points of the third quarter and later in the period went on a 13-3 run to complete erase the early deficit. Smith completed a three-point play to give the Hawks a 66-64 lead, their first advantage since the led 17-15 with 3:16 remaining in the first quarter.
The Hawks led by as many as nine points before the end of the third quarter, 75-66, a period they outscored the Raptors 30-14. The Raptors got three free throws by DeRozan with .2 seconds remaining after he was fouled by Jannero Pargo on a desperation shot at the buzzer. The Hawks took the 75-69 advantage into the final quarter.
“I told our guys before the game our biggest challenge was going to be us in this game tonight given what the situation was, playing against a team that had just completed a trade,” Drew said. “Them a little short-handed with bodies, I really felt our biggest challenge was going to be us. How could we handle that knowing they only had nine players? Knowing they got rid of two starters? Would we come out with a sense of urgency? Would our energy be up at the beginning of the game? In all those things, it was not the case.”
The Raptors came back to tie the game at 81-81 with 5:13 remaining to set up the decisive back-and-forth minutes.
The Raptors took a 10-point lead, 55-45, into halftime. They led by as many as 13 points late in the second quarter after an 11-0 run. DeRozan led the Raptors with 11 first-half as they held a 28-14 rebounding advantage. Korver led the Hawks with 11 first-half points.
Drew was concerned about his team’s ability to rebound against the Raptors – and it was indeed an issue. The Raptors finished with a 51-36 advantage on the boards, even without 6-foot-10 Davis. Many on the rebounds came on bounces far from the basket.
“He came in and got on us,” Korver said of Drew’s halftime rant. “He doesn’t want to do that. That’s one of the next steps for us as a team is to be able to focus mentally to where we are giving effort for 48 minutes. We didn’t play very well in the first half. He came in and got on us.”
Newest Braves, and brothers, B.J. and Justin Upton, attended the game and received a loud ovation when introduced to the home crowd during a timeout late in the game.