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Harrington Returns to Atlanta, Pacers Meet Hawks
Posted Dec 22 2006 6:00PM
The Atlanta Hawks need to find a way to stop blowing big leads.
The Hawks (9-15) look to snap out of a slide and end a three-game homestand on a good note when they host the Indiana Pacers (14-13) on Friday night.
The game will mark the Atlanta return of Al Harrington, who averaged 18.1 points in two years with the Hawks before being traded back to Indiana in the offseason. Harrington played his first six seasons with the Pacers.
The Hawks won all four games against the Pacers in 2005-06, but if they can't hold a fourth-quarter lead, that streak will come to an end.
Atlanta led Chicago 87-75 in the fourth Saturday but went on to lose 106-104 in overtime. Things got worse for the Hawks on Wednesday against Utah, as they blew a 21-point advantage after three periods and lost 112-106 after getting outscored 40-13 in the final quarter.
``Even when we're up, our body language says we're losing,'' Hawks forward Josh Smith said. ``We shouldn't feel that way.''
Atlanta has lost four straight at home and six of its last seven overall, ruining what had been a decent 8-9 start to the season.
``We were solid again until we got to the fourth quarter, and then all hell broke loose,'' Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. ``Our guys have been playing not to win. Everybody's second-guessing themselves. For what, I don't know. We put ourselves in great position against a great team, and we just let it slip away at the end. Tonight, we didn't get it done again down the stretch.
``We just have to keep working through this process, because we're playing well enough to win basketball games.''
Joe Johnson led the Hawks with 27 points Wednesday. He averaged 24.0 points, 9.0 assists and 58 percent shooting from 3-point range against Indiana last season.
Harrington averaged 20.5 points and 7.0 boards in those same four contests for Atlanta, but he's been mired in a slump for the Pacers recently.
He didn't score against the Jazz in a 104-94 loss Sunday and had only seven points on 3-for-11 shooting in the Pacers' 101-93 win over Philadelphia on Wednesday. Over his last five games, Harrington is averaging 9.6 points on 36.4 percent shooting.
Sunday's game marked the first time since Dec. 18, 2002, he was held scoreless and the first time in his career he'd played more than 20 minutes and failed to score a point.
Luckily for Harrington and the Pacers, other players have been stepping up to help Indiana win three of its last four games and jump back over .500.
Jermaine O'Neal set a season high for the second straight game with 34 points and added 11 rebounds, while Stephen Jackson had 25 points to help the Pacers snap a five-game road losing streak with the win over the 76ers.
``Our record is definitely not what we thought it would be in this part of the year, but at the same time to continue to get wins and continue to work and get better is something I can't complain about,'' said Jackson, who averaged 18.1 points for Atlanta in 2003-04. ``Anytime you can find a way to win on the road is always good. We have a lot of work to do.''
Indiana, which plays Atlanta again Jan. 9, had won seven straight over the Hawks before going winless last season.
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