Johnson on four-OT win: ‘I’ve never played in a game like that’

They said it was supposed to be a back-to-back-to-back, but no one said anything about finishing up that grueling stretch with a four-overtime stunner.

Of course, the Hawks aren’t complaining. Not after coming out on the winning side of their 139-133 marathon over the Utah Jazz on Sunday at Philips Arena, doing their overtime damage with Josh Smith on the bench with six fouls already.

Joe Johnson was the guy who saved the day for the Hawks, collecting 37 points and eight rebounds, not to mention all of the clutch shots anyone could ask for in the third-longest game in NBA history and the first four-overtime game in the league since 1997.

This wasn’t exactly an instant classic, though. The teams were a combined 2 of 16 from the field in the first overtime, and their combined four points tied for second-fewest in NBA history in an overtime period.

Johnson, however, did have a classic night. He played a staggering 55 minutes, making 14 of his 28 shots from the floor, 4 of 7 from beyond the 3-point line and 5 of 8 from the free-throw line.

He should have been completely exhausted after not only this night but also the Hawks’ three-game stretch, and yet he didn’t seem particularly winded when it was over.

“It’s not really that exhausting like people would think. I know it’s our third in a row, but winning cures everything,” Johnson said. “The more you win, everything else takes care of itself. You tend not to hurt as much. They (my legs) felt pretty good. I got some great looks. In that first quarter, I got into a great rhythm. Then other guys stepped up and made plays.

“It was unbelievable. I just had to laugh it off, because I just couldn’t believe it. I’ve never played in a game like that.”

Hawks coach Larry Drew was equally stunned to be a part of a game with historic proportions — there were 233 shots, 82 free throws, 128 rebounds and somehow just 20 assists.

“That was something. It’s all happened to us this year thus far,” Drew said. “We’ve gone through injury, emergencies with families, we’ve gone through scheduling zig-zagging all over the states, 11-, 12-day trips. Now we go into a back-to-back-to-back, and on the third night we go into . . . was it four? Four overtimes. This team didn’t have any quit in them.”

Yes, it was four overtimes, Coach. And no, your players had no quit in them.

The Hawks have won four straight games and six of seven, improving to 30-20 and moving a half-game ahead of Indiana for fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

NOTES, QUOTES

-Joe Johnson was hardly the lone hero in the four-overtime marathon against Utah on Sunday. Jeff Teague finished with 18 points and nine assists, added a pair of free throws with 13 seconds to go to give the Hawks a 137-133 lead. Johnson’s two free throws sealed the victory with 5.5 seconds remaining.

Zaza Pachulia was also a beast on the block. He grabbed a career-high 20 rebounds and drained a short jumper in the final seconds of the second quarter that gave the Hawks a 17-point lead, their biggest of the game.

“This is what I do,” Pachulia said. “We have great shooters and great one-on-one players, and I just followed them. I’ve been in this league long enough to know where shots are coming from, to take position. I tried to get some putbacks and easy buckets. Just tried to help the team.”

-Johnson had a monster night, playing the final 27 minutes of the game after kicking the night off by going 8 for 8 from the floor in an 18-point first quarter.

With Josh Smith fouling out in the first overtime, he didn’t have anyone to help tote the load with the game on the line.

“He’s a top-level player in this league,” Jazz coach Ty Corbin said. “We knew they were going to put the ball in his hands.”

QUOTE TO NOTE

“This would happen on the third game. It just shows the resilience and the toughness of this ballclub to be able to push through that many overtimes and come out victorious. It was a special win. I think we appreciate this win more than any other win during the season thus far.” — Josh Smith on the Hawks’ never-say-die approach.