Hawks 101, Clippers 100
Al Horford fell so hard under the basket following a devastating last-second collision with Blake Griffin, it seemed unlikely he'd be able to pull himself up to shoot the biggest free throws of the game.
Larry Drew knew better. Even with Horford holding his back in obvious pain as he remained on the floor for a few minutes, the Hawks coach wasn't counting out his All-Star center.
Horford walked slowly to the line and made two free throws with 0.6 seconds remaining to give Atlanta a 101-100 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night.
''It was a nasty spill by him,'' Drew said. ''He wasn't going to signal to come out in that situation. ... You're practically going to have to wheel him off the floor for him not to shoot the free throws, and he stepped up and nailed them both.''
Griffin sent Marvin Williams and then Horford to the floor with hard fouls in the final seconds. The last was the most costly, though Griffin and Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro argued against the flagrant 1 ruling.
''No!'' Del Negro said. ''It wasn't a flagrant foul. He was going for the basketball. It was not a flagrant foul. It should not have been called.
''He blocked the ball. He wasn't going for his body.''
Added Griffin: ''I wasn't trying to hurt him at all. I was just going for the ball. It was a last-second shot, he had a wide-open dunk. I feel like I went straight up. They thought otherwise.''
Jamal Crawford had 34 points, 16 in the third quarter. Atlanta's two All-Stars had big games: Horford had 23 points and 12 rebounds, and Joe Johnson added 17 points, nine assists and nine rebounds.
Baron Davis had 22 points and 13 assists for Los Angeles. Griffin, the NBA's first rookie All-Star selection since Yao Ming in 2003, had 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Eric Bledsoe made two free throws after he was fouled by Crawford with 11.5 seconds left to give the Clippers a 100-99 lead. The Clippers' Randy Foye then blocked a shot by Johnson and the ball bounced out of bounds as the two players fought for possession.
The officials went to the TV replay monitor to determine possession and ruled a jump ball with 4.2 seconds remaining. Johnson tipped the ball to Williams, who was sent crashing to the floor on a foul by Griffin, giving possession to the Hawks with 3.3 seconds to go.
The pass went to Horford, who drove to the basket and was leveled by Griffin. Each player was left sprawled on the floor for a couple minutes.
''I was kind of limited there, but I was able to shake it off,'' Horford said. ''I kind of took my time to gather myself. Once I got up, I was fine.''
Horford, already limping from a knee bruise, walked stiffly off the court after making the two free throws.
''I'm OK,'' Horford said. ''We checked everything and everything seems to be fine.''
The Clippers' front line caused problems early before Crawford had 16 points in the Hawks' 26-6 run to finish the third quarter. After trailing by eight, the Hawks led 79-67 at the end of the quarter.
Williams returned from a two-game suspension for a fight with New York's Shawne Williams. Marvin Williams, the regular at small forward, didn't start as Drew went with his big lineup. Jason Collins joined Horford and Smith on Atlanta's front line.
Griffin made 8-of-18 shots from the field in his first game since he was selected as a reserve to the Western Conference All-Star team.
''It means a lot to me,'' Griffin said, giving credit to his coaches and teammates. ''I didn't put a lot of thought into whether or not I was in. Not that I didn't care, but it was out of my hands, so I didn't worry about it.''
The 7-foot Collins wasn't enough against the Clippers' inside game, led by Griffin, Ike Diogu and DeAndre Jordan.
Jordan used a quick move to shoot past Collins for a jam on the Clippers' first two baskets, setting the pace for an emphasis on inside production. The Clippers outscored the Hawks 56-44 in the paint.
Diogu had 14 points, including 12 in only 8 minutes in the first half.
Notes: Davis (back spasms) was cleared after pregame warmups. ... The Hawks are 5-5 against Western Conference teams. ... Los Angeles opened an 11-game road trip, including eight games before the All-Star break. The Clippers fell to 3-16 on the road. ... There were 15 ties and 20 lead changes. ... Brian Cook had 14 points and 10 rebounds off the bench for Los Angeles.