Smith Simply Refused to Lose
When Larry Drew called a timeout just 58 seconds into the third quarter, things did not look good for the Hawks. Playing a back-to-back out west is always a challenge, and now Atlanta was facing a double-digit deficit in the second half. It had the look of a loss, but Josh Smith had other ideas.
Smith had turned in a solid first half. In fact, he was exactly halfway to a 20 and 10 night (10 points, five rebounds), the gold-standard for forwards in the NBA. But on this night, when the Suns were keying strongly on Joe Johnson, he knew 20 and 10 wouldn’t be enough.
For a majority of the third quarter the Hawks floundered, unable to cut the lead to less than nine points. They hurt themselves with unforced turnovers that gave the Suns seven uncontested points on the other end. Finally, with the lead at 11 with 2:35 left in the quarter, Josh decided to get the team over the mental barrier of nine points. He stepped behind the arc and nailed a 3-pointer, and then added another two minutes later to cut the lead to five. The Hawks were back in the game, and Josh had that determined look in his eye.
Two minutes into the fourth, Coach Drew was going to give Josh a chance to rest for the final push, but with the lead down to just one point Joe Johnson wanted his co-captain with him on the court.
“I was going to pull Josh out early in the 4th,” Drew said afterward. “And right when I subbed Joe in, Joe said ‘Leave him out there, he’s young.’ I thought he was tired, I mean we played last night and he played quite a few minutes, so I just wanted to give him a quick blow. But he wanted to stay in, and I’m glad he did because he just played a phenomenal game.”
When Josh was asked if he was glad that LD left him in the game, he got a good laugh saying, “I bet he is glad he left me in.”
“He was going to take him out, but you got a guy rolling like that, man, he’s 24 or 25,” Joe said after the game. “He can handle it. He’s got some mileage he can put on that body, so ride him ’til the wheels fall off. We’ve got two days off, he can rest tomorrow.”
The result, a stat line for the record books…
Josh Smith had 30 points, 17 rebounds, seven assists, four steals and three blocks in the Hawks’ 101-99 win against the Suns. Since 1973, when the NBA first officially recorded steals and blocked shots, only one other player reached all five of those statistical levels in one game. That was LeBron James, who had 31 points, 19 rebounds, eight assists, four steals and three blocks for the Cavaliers in a double-overtime game against the Bobcats on January 11, 2008.
“I just wanted to be aggressive,” Josh said. “I knew they were keying in on Joe and we needed some offense somewhere else. Me and Willie definitely picked up the slack.”
The win will definitely make the break more enjoyable. Rather than a three-game slide, the Hawks have a good feeling as they enjoy their first consecutive days without a game since the season began on Dec. 27.
“I told the guys I don’t even want to see them tomorrow,” Drew said after the game.
“I don’t want to see him either,” Smith said later, with a laugh. “I want to see the bed, the pillow, the covers. All that good stuff.”
The rest is certainly well deserved.