Hawks hand 'Cats their 16th straight home loss
Thanks in part to forward Josh Smith and the Atlanta Hawks, the Charlotte Bobcats' lengthy home losing streak grew to 16 games on Wednesday.
Smith scored 30 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for his 15th double double of the season, leading Atlanta to a 104-92 victory against Charlotte at Time Warner Cable Arena.
The Bobcats (10-32) haven't been victorious in a home NBA contest for more than two months now —since defeating the Toronto Raptors 98-97 on Nov. 21.
Charlotte coach Mike Dunlap believes his team was lacking a few traits when it stepped on the court to face the Hawks.
"Just being mentally ready and physically ready to play a basketball game," he said. "We definitely weren't switched on. We didn't give it a good go."
Charlotte played competitively in the game's opening minutes, even pulling out to an early four-point lead.
However, Atlanta used a 13-2 run to take the lead midway through the first quarter. The Hawks (24-18) led 28-20 after one stanza.
The Bobcats fought back in the second quarter, getting as close as one point, but Atlanta stretched its advantage back out to 53-46 at the halftime break.
Smith led Atlanta's first half performance with 16 points.
"I just wanted to play aggressive, but also play in the flow of the offense," Smith said of his performance against the Bobcats. "I didn't want to feel like I had to put pressure on myself on both ends of the court. I was just wanted to keep playing aggressive, but also play under control."
A strong start to the third quarter helped guide the Hawks on their road to the Southeast Division victory.
Smith was a big part of his team's solid play to start the second half, scoring 10 of his team's first 12 points in the third.
Smith also tallied eight assists Wednesday to go with his double double.
"When (Josh Smith) plays that type of game, he is one of the best all-around players in this league," said Bobcats guard Ramon Sessions. "He can post up, make passes and hit jump shots. He was playing well tonight from all aspects of the floor. He is tough to guard when he is like that. He is really a small forward, but he can also post up. He's a tough match up."
Sessions helped pace the 'Cats off of the bench, scoring 19 of his season- and team-high 27 points in the second half. He also dished out four assists.
Charlotte's Ben Gordon also added more solid bench play, tallying 15 points and six rebounds.
Two days after setting his career high in points against the Houston Rockets, second-year guard Kemba Walker tallied just 11 points against the Hawks.
Behind Smith, as well as hot perimeter shooting from Atlanta's Kyle Korver, the Hawks stayed solidly in the lead throughout the second half.
Korver finished Wednesday's game with 21 points, including 5-of-6 makes from 3-pointer territory.
Atlanta forward Ivan Johnson also tallied a double-double with 12 points and 15 rebounds.
"It was a really good win for our ball club," said Hawks coach Larry Drew. "We came in here a little shorthanded, and I was concerned about our big man play, but Ivan Johnson did a tremendous job. He gave us a big lift, and Josh Smith really played within himself. We ran a lot of things through (Smith) because we felt we had an advantage with him. He played just a huge ball game for us."
Charlotte has a chance to snap its sour 16-game home skid when it hosts the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
"It's bad because you want to win in front of the fans," Sessions said. "In the overall aspect, it's not an 18-game losing streak. We've got a couple of wins on the road. We've just got to get it together here at home. We've got another one Saturday against Minnesota. We've just got to get ready and try to play good for 48 minutes."
An emotional Dunlap echoed Session's sentiments after Wednesday's game.
"I know that we have a better team in that locker room than we played tonight," Dunlap said. "It's just too bad that kind of thing happened in front of our own people because they've seen some great performances here by us from a physical standpoint. It's also been frustrating by the fact we haven't been able to finish games out — very close games. I think (the fans) are understanding of that, but they are not understanding of the type of physical effort we put out tonight … It's frustrating, but we forge ahead."