Joe Johnson looked as bad as ever in the first three quarters. But much like a superstar, he shook off his bad night and came up huge down the stretch. Johnson poured in 25 points and Horford added 21, leading the Atlanta Hawks to a 99-95 win over the Washington Wizards on Saturday night in their home opener at Philips Arena.
Jamal Crawford had 15 points off the bench and Mike Bibby and Josh Smith added 12 each for Atlanta, which improved to 3-0 on the campaign.
"I'm a shooter so I have to keep shooting," Johnson, who was just 5-for-15 going into the final frame, told the Hawks local television broadcast afterward. "I just wanted to play aggressive int he fourth quarter."
Playing on the second night of a back-to-back, the high octane Hawks struggled to get their legs under them in the first three quarters and were tied with the woeful Wizards through three quarters. But Hawks seized control in the final 12 minutes. Atlanta opened the frame with a 13-4 run before Washington roared back to tie it at 84-84 on Andre Blatche's putback with 4:44 left.
Enter Johnson. Atlanta's perennial All-Star took control, launching a jumper to put the Hawks ahead for good on the ensuing possession before draining a 3-pointer with 3:22 left to put the Hawks up 89-84.
"He's our guy," Hawks coach Larry Drew told the reporters afterward. "We relied on him a lot down the stretch. When the game's on the line we're going to try to put the ball in his hands where he's going to be successful. Tonight, he came up big down the stretch."
The lead was cut to four when rookie John Wall nailed his first career NBA 3-pointer with 2:38 left before Horford sealed the deal down the stretch. Horford, who is looking for a contract extension ahead of the league's Nov. 1 deadline, nailed a jumper to extend the lead to 93-87 with 2:11 left before putting the game away on the ensuing possession.
The former Florida Gator snuck behind a clueless Yi Jianlian to the post as Smith lobbed an alley-oop pass toward the Atlanta net. Horford slammed the ball through the net with 96 ticks left to essentially end the game.
Atlanta had its hands full early on with the Wizards. The team struggled to run its motion offense against Washington's zone defense and trailed 27-18 through one quarter. But Drew turned to the Atlanta bench, which gave him a much-needed boost in the second as the Hawks took a 44-40 lead into the break.
"There are going to be some days on back-to-back and I know they were a little tired," Drew said. "They have to find a way to gut it out, and tonight they did. ... When we do get off to slow starts, we go to our bench. I am going to continue to go to them and ride them. They've been very productive for me and doing a great job."
Wall had a tremendous game for the Wizards, scoring 28 points and dishing nine assists in his first game at Philips Arena. But it wasn't enough to beat a Hawks team that has the Wizards' number. Atlanta has won 10 straight over the Wizards.