Hawks 94, Bobcats 91

After an atrocious 1-for-10 night at the free throw line last
week, Al Horford decided to spend extra time working on his foul
shots.

”That’s one of the things I always work on, and I got away from
it a little bit,” he said. ”I think it showed when I went in that
little slump.”

His recent effort seems to have paid off.

Horford scored 17 points and hit two clinching free throws to
help the Atlanta Hawks win their sixth straight game with a 94-91
victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night.

Josh Smith and Lou Williams also had 17 points apiece for the
Hawks.

Ben Gordon scored 20 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter and
Ramon Sessions had 18 to lead Charlotte, which has lost two
straight and three of four.

Gordon’s straightaway 3-pointer with 29.1 seconds remaining cut
Atlanta’s lead to 92-91. The Bobcats got the ball back, but
Sessions’ inbounds pass from the left sideline was ruled a turnover
after the officials watched replays and concluded neither Gordon
nor Smith touched the ball, which bounced out of bounds on the
other side of the court with 5.2 seconds to go.

”I think if I would’ve touched the ball, it would’ve gone in a
different direction, which it didn’t,” Smith said. ”It was a good
call by the referees.”

Horford, who finished with 11 rebounds, followed with two free
throws 1.1 seconds later. Before hitting all three foul shots
against Charlotte, Horford had missed 11 of his previous 12
attempts.

”I’ve been working on a lot and watching myself the way I’m
shooting it,” he said. ”Now I feel confident, and tonight was big
for me to make those shots.”

In the fourth quarter, Gordon was 5 for 7 on 3s and hit all five
free throws he attempted, but he wasn’t able to give Charlotte the
lead.

”I just tried to be aggressive and force the issue a little
bit,” Gordon said. ”My teammates did a good job of finding me.
That was pretty much it. It was a good night, but I much prefer to
get the W.”

With Gordon covered in the final seconds, Byron Mullens missed a
3 that would’ve tied the score at the buzzer. Horford was covering
him tightly on the perimeter and challenged the shot.

”The look was awesome, couldn’t really ask for anything
better,” Mullens said. ”I knew I was guarded, but the shot felt
great. It felt like I got hit a little bit on the arm, so I kind of
over-pressed it and it hit the back iron.”

The Bobcats were coming off 114-69 loss – the worst in franchise
history – on Monday at Oklahoma City, but they led at the 2:34 mark
of the second quarter when Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s layup ended an
18-2 run that put Charlotte up 42-35.

By the 7:11 mark of the third, the Hawks led for good after
Horford’s three-point play made it 52-51.

Smith, who finished with a game-high 13 rebounds, was the
catalyst for most of the third, scoring 13 points on 5-for-7
shooting and getting four rebounds, two steals and a blocked
shot.

”Just being active, being around the basketball, creating plays
for myself and others, being patient and then when the opportune
time comes for me to be aggressive, I took advantage of it,” Smith
said. ”It wasn’t necessarily play calls. It was just me being
patient and playing to the flow of the offense.”

Kemba Walker scored 15 points and Brendan Haywood pulled down 11
rebounds for the Bobcats.

Horford is pleased that the Hawks’ reshaped roster, which
includes the additions of veterans such as Williams, Kyle Korver,
Devin Harris, DeShawn Stevenson and Anthony Morrow, isn’t playing
like recent Atlanta teams that often squandered games against
less-talented opponents.

”These games, in the past, one of them we would’ve dropped if
we didn’t come out with enough energy and little things like
that,” Horford said. ”I think this year we’re doing a good job
even though it’s closer than we would like. But we’re getting the
wins.”

NOTES: Korver left with back spasms in the third and didn’t
return. … Bobcats C Bismack Biyombo, returning after missing the
last two games with a bruise on his lower left leg, finished with
six points and eight rebounds in 27 minutes. … Harris, playing
for the first time since spraining his left big toe in last
Friday’s win at Charlotte, had seven points and four assists.