Hawks roll, pull even with Bulls
They can thank a guy who frequently gets booed by the home fans, and a young guard who wasn’t supposed to be playing much at all.
Josh Smith answered his critics with a huge game—23 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists—and fill-in Jeff Teague came up with the Derrick Rose-like plays down the stretch to lead the Hawks past the Chicago Bulls, 100-88, Sunday night, evening the Eastern Conference semifinals at two games apiece.
The Hawks snapped a nine-game home losing streak in the second round, their misery dating to a May 13, 1996, win against Orlando.
Smith is frequently criticized by Atlanta fans for his inconsistent play. He heard nothing but cheers in this one, staying away from the outside jumpers, dominating on the inside and finding the open man with crisp passes.
“There are people who don’t understand the game, who don’t know the game. That doesn’t faze me,” Smith said. “My teammates matter more than anybody else. They believe in me. They have confidence in my game. When I was in my rut, they told me to stay positive, to stay in the game, just do what I’d been doing all season long. I stayed with it and had the game I had tonight.”
Teague has been an even bigger surprise filling in for injured Kirk Hinrich, playing with the poise of a veteran instead of someone who played infrequently during the regular season and first round of the playoffs. He scored 12 points and doled out four assists.
Rose scored 34 points but needed 32 shots to do it. The top-seeded Bulls can still close out the series simply by winning at home, but the Hawks know they’ll get at least one more home game.
Down the stretch, the Hawks clamped down on the Chicago star. Rose tied it at 84 on a drive with 4˝ minutes to go, but he missed his next shot, then turned it over twice before making a late basket that didn’t matter. He finished 12 of 32 from the field.
“It was a tough game but no excuses,” Rose said. “Put this game on me. Two turnovers at the end of the game.”
Al Horford had his best game of the series, scoring 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting. Joe Johnson led the Hawks with 24 points.
Carlos Boozer had 18 points for Chicago, and Luol Deng added 13. Korver had an especially rough night, going 1 for 8 from the field. He missed all five of his three-point attempts.