Al Horford was sprawled out behind the Atlanta Hawks bucket after crashing hard to the floor after a nasty collision with Los Angeles Clippers rookie sensation Blake Griffin. Grabbing his back and wincing in pain, the Atlanta big man looked like he may be down for the count.
But much like the fighter that he is, Horford dusted himself off, went to the line. The result was one fitting a two-time All-Star.
Horford's two free throws found nothing but net with .6 seconds left to lift the Hawks to a 101-100 win over the Clippers on Friday night at Philips Arena.
Jamal Crawford had 34 points and Horford added 23 and 12 boards for Atlanta, which swept the season set from Los Angeles.
"I actually kind of thought I was going to be able to turn the corner," Horford told the Hawks' TV telecast. "He came in late. ... Once I got to the free throw line I was OK. It was hard leading up, I felt my legs go weak."
Horford was put in position to take the lead due to a borderline call from a spotty-at-best officiating crew, who went to the video tape to decide whether the ball went off of Joe Johnson or Randy Foye with just over four seconds left. When the refs couldn't figure out who the ball went off of, they called for a jump ball.
Johnson tipped the ball to Marvin Williams, who was fouled by Griffin with 3.3 seconds left. The Hawks called time out and drew up the final play.
Johnson found Horford on the inbound pass and the Atlanta forward hesitated, drawing Los Angeles off guard as everyone in the arena thought the ball was headed back to Johnson. Instead, the former Florida standout drove the lane and went to the basket. He was met Griffin, who smacked into Horford as the two crashed hard to the floor, drawing a Flagrant-1 call.
Although Horford spent a few moments writhing in pain on the Philips Arena hardwood, there was no doubt in coach Larry Drew's mind who was going to the line for Atlanta's final points.
"Al's tough," Drew said. "He's a warrior. He stepped up there and nailed them both."
The come-from-behind win masked another fourth quarter collapse for Atlanta, which built a 12 point lead through the first three periods. But the Clippers went into a zone to start the fourth. The Hawks went ice cold from the field.
The Hawks posted their largest lead when Williams drained a pair of free throws to give Atlanta a 83-69 edge with 10:11 left in the game. But Los Angeles posted 27 of the next 41 points to make this one a ballgame.
Baron Davis was huge in the Clippers' comeback, posting 10 of his 22 points and dishing four assists down the stretch.
Los Angeles took a 98-97 lead on a hook shot by Griffin with 37.1 seconds left before Crawford misfired on a 3-pointer with 18.6 seconds remaining. But Josh Smith was there for the crucial putback to restore the Atlanta lead.
Eric Bledsoe nailed a pair of free throws to give the Clippers a 100-99 lead with 11.5 seconds left before Atlanta called time out. Johnson was stuffed by Foye on the other end of the court before the ball went out of bounds setting up Horford's final play.
"The players never gave up," Crawford said. "We showed a lot of mental toughness to let them come back into the game. ... Al is our leader. You can't question his heart."
Johnson neared a triple-double with 17 points, nine rebounds and nine assists for Atlanta, which won at home for the 14th time in 16 games.
Griffin was held to 19 points and 11 rebounds for the Clippers, who fell to 19-30 on the season.