Al Horford doesn't have to do anything else to convince his coach that he's Rookie of the Year material.He accomplished that months ago when he stepped up to the challenge of starting at center for a Hawks team desperate for an inside presence and started piling up double-digit rebounding performances.
Horford's latest effort -- a 12-point, 15-rebound, six-assist and two-block outing in a 105-96 win over the Washington Wizards on Monday night at Verizon Center -- was even more than coach Mike Woodson could have expected at this late stage of the season.
And when you consider that Horford was giving up three or four inches to Wizards center Brendan Haywood, his ability to dominate the action inside for much of the night was that much more astounding.
"He's been huge all year and he's a major candidate for Rookie of the Year, without a doubt," Woodson said. "I respect everything he's done for us on and off the floor. He's never complained about a thing. He just comes to work every day and gives you his all when he's out there on the floor. He's been a positive influence on my life. I mean, he's huge. I love Al Horford. I love him."
Horford loves the way the Hawks are playing right now.
"I really think that Clippers game gave us confidence," Horford said. "We went out there and dominated and won, and I felt like we carried that over to New York (Sunday). And then we needed this one tonight, and everybody answered the call. I think we're starting to figure it out, and maybe we can get some momentum going now."
The Hawks will try to stay on a roll when they visit the Nets on Wednesday.
HAWKS 105, WIZARDS 96: Win or go home.
That's the Hawks' mantra from here on out.
And they played that way in their relentless win over Washington on Monday night. They played with the kind of intensity and unwavering focus that will be needed over the final month of the regular season, winning their third straight game while locked in a playoff chase at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.
"We're fighting right now, we're playing for something," coach Mike Woodson said after his team won back-to-back road games for the first time since wins at Miami and Minnesota in late November. "We're in the hunt with teams like New Jersey, Indiana, Washington and Chicago, trying to secure a playoff spot. So every game is important. Every second, every minute you're out on the floor you've got to play it like it's your last.
The Hawks shot a sterling 55 percent (41-for-74) from the floor and 53 percent (8-for-15) from beyond the 3-point line. They piled up 25 assists, out-rebounded the Wizards 40-34, turned the ball over just 11 times and controlled the action down the stretch with Mike Bibby directing traffic.
He led five Hawks in double figures with a team-high 23 points, including a 5-for-6 showing from beyond the 3-point line.
"We need all of them," Bibby said of the task ahead of the Hawks these final 15 games. "We shot the ball well tonight, and you have nights like that sometimes. But we won it. That's all that matters."