Rebounds don't make great highlights. But as the Hawks have won nine of their first 11 games of the season, including their past five, rebounds and the overall play of big men Al Horford and Josh Smith have been as much a part of the team's success as dramatic 3-pointers and slashing drives to the basket. During the Hawks' winning streak, Horford and Smith have a combined six double-doubles.
"They've been on a tear lately," coach Mike Woodson said. "When they both are getting double-doubles like that, we can be a hard team to beat."
The Miami Heat might discover that tonight when they visit the Hawks in a matchup of teams with two of the best records in the Eastern Conference.
Horford and Smith have been terrors on the glass of late, giving the Hawks second and third chances on possessions and making stops on defense.
"Everybody's making the extra effort, diving on the floor, going for loose balls," Horford said. "We're doing all the little things."
On Monday, in what Woodson said was probably the most physical game of the season, the Hawks outrebounded Portland 47-37, led by Smith's 16, Horford's 10 and backup forward Zaza Pachulia's nine. Portland, with 7-foot Greg Oden and 6-foot-11 LaMarcus Aldridge, is one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA.
Smith and Horford were a combined 15 of 24 from the field, many of their 35 points scored in transition.
Consider these two moments from late in the fourth quarter of the overtime win:
With the Hawks down 76-73, guard Mike Bibby missed a fadeaway. Horford fought for the loose ball and kicked it out to guard Joe Johnson, who drained a game-tying 3-pointer.
With less than 10 seconds left, Portland guard Brandon Roy missed a jump shot that would have given the Blazers a 84-83 lead. Smith won the rebound from Portland guard Rudy Fernandez and hit Johnson with an outlet pass that led to two free throws. With that margin, Fernandez's buzzer-beating 3-pointer sent the teams to overtime, where Horford and Smith had two rebounds and two points each.
"Allowing second-chance points at the end of the game is one of the key things that caused us to lose the game," Blazers coach Nate McMillan said after the game. "We also didn't do a good job of keeping them out of the paint."
Horford and Smith have collected several easy baskets by beating their opponent down the floor on fast breaks often started by the other grabbing a rebound and dribbling upcourt.
Said Johnson, "They're both guys who can really run the court well, and it's hard for any [forward] or [center] to keep up with those guys."
Smith, boosted by 33 boards in the past two games, is averaging 8.9 rebounds and 16.3 points per game to go with a 58.6 shooting percentage, seventh in the league. Horford is at 10.2, 13.5 and 56.8 percent. Smith also led the league in blocks at 2.5 per game going into Tuesday night.
"Josh has really stepped his game up, and I think when he does that, he just makes a huge difference on the team," Horford said. "It forces people to be more worried about him, more than they used to."
Next for Hawks
Who: vs. Heat
When: 7 p.m. today
TV; radio: SPSO; 790
Last season, the Hawks took three of four from the Heat in the regular season before defeating them in seven games in the first round of the playoffs.
Entering their game Tuesday night against Oklahoma City, the Heat had held six of their first nine opponents under 90 points. They also had taken 19 charges to their opponents' six.
Before Tuesday, Miami guard Dwyane Wade had scored 20 or more points in his past 22 games, dating to last season, a team record.
Wade and forward Udonis Haslem are the first pair of Heat teammates to play seven seasons together.
Hawks vs. Heat, 7 p.m. today (SPSO, 790)
Check out our galleries, blogs and stories as Dwyane Wade and the Heat play the red-hot Hawks at Philips Arena at 7 p.m. today.
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