CHARLOTTE - Josh Smith knew playing three games in three days would be tough.
He didn't imagine it would be like this.
The Atlanta Hawks went to overtime for a second straight night, pulling out a 102-96 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday behind Smith's 23 points and 13 rebounds.
The Hawks lost in triple-overtime to the Miami Heat the night before, but made sure multiple extra periods wouldn't be needed against the Bobcats after scoring the first seven points of overtime, with early 3-pointers by Jeff Teague and Joe Johnson. Marvin Williams added 15 points and nine rebounds, and Al Horford scored 15 points for the Hawks.
The Hawks (5-3) close out the three-game set Saturday night at home against Chicago.
"We understood coming into this season that the schedule was going to be hectic and I think we have one of the most challenging tripleheaders that anybody has in this league, playing Miami first, coming to play Charlotte and then playing Chicago," Smith said. "You know it says a lot about this ballclub that when adversity hits us that we stand in there and we fight the battle."
They almost lost it down the stretch.
D.J. Augustin led the Bobcats with 21 points and 12 assists, while Kemba Walker added 19 points and Byron Mullens had a career-high 17 points off the bench.
The Bobcats (2-5) trailed most of the second half, but tied the game with 6.5 seconds left as Horford was called for goaltending after an offensive rebound and shot by Boris Diaw.
Both teams had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation.
Horford missed a baseline jumper and the ball went out of bounds with 1.1 seconds left. The Bobcats got the ball at half court after a timeout, but Diaw missed a turnaround fadeaway jumper, sending the game into overtime.
It was all Hawks from there.
Teague hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to start the overtime period. After a turnover by Mullens, Smith was fouled and made one of two foul shots. But the Hawks got the rebound of the missed free throw and Johnson canned a 3-pointer from the right wing, making the Bobcats pay in what essentially amounted to a four-point play.
The Bobcats attempted to come back behind a three-point play by Mullens and a driving layup by Gerald Henderson, but Johnson put the game away with a 15-footer.
Johnson finished with 14 points.
"It was a big exhale after this one was over," Smith said. "Nobody in this locker room wanted it to go to a second overtime just because we played three of them last night. We didn't really want it to go into overtime tonight but it did. We made enough plays to win."
The Bobcats used a rarely-shown zone defense to get back in the game late, going with their point guards Augustin and Walker on the floor at the same time along with three bigs.
It seemed to confuse the Hawks for a time, but eventually hurt the Bobcats on the boards.
"They gave us a lot of different looks, gave us a lot of different looks with matchups and then they came back and played some zone," said Hawks coach Larry Drew. "So, you know, they got us a little scattered but we maintained our composure and stayed patient with what we were doing. We moved the ball extremely well and that's huge for us.
"I thought our guys did a really good job of just responding to the situation of the previous night."
Early on it looked like the Bobcats were the tired team.
Playing without their veteran leader Corey Maggette, who's out two to four weeks with a strained left hamstring, Charlotte shot just 35 percent from the field in the first half. They missed several easy layups to fall behind 43-35 at the break.
Augustin continued his fine play with another double-double, but said the Bobcats missed a golden opportunity to creep up on .500.
"You have to get games like that," Augustin said. "We had the advantage because they had a triple-overtime game last night and then had to travel up here. But we have to put this one behind us and keep playing hard."
Bobcats coach Paul Silas likes the combination of Augustin and Walker on the floor at the same time.
He even said it's "a possibility" both could wind up in the starting lineup together at some point to give them a little more production on the offensive end.
"I think we're going to have to (play them more together) because they really do well offensively and that's what we need," Silas said. "We need guys that can push it that can score. Kemba was hitting long jumpers. D.J. was hitting shots and Mullens, I really think we have to play him also because we don't rebound well enough or defend well enough when we have a very small team. So, it's just kind of a thing where we all have to learn, including me."
The Hawks return home to face Chicago, hoping they can avoid overtime and get another win.
"You know guys are physically tired but at the same time you can't let the mental go away and I think we came closer together as a team when adversity hit us," Smith said. "They went on that run late in the fourth quarter to take it to overtime. I think that the will that we had and the cohesiveness as a bunch to bring it together and come closer as a team to will ourselves to this win. I just have to tip my hat off to everyone in this locker room."