ATLANTA (AP) — Lou Williams is out of the doghouse. Good thing, because the Atlanta Hawks really needed him Monday night.
Williams scored 22 points off the bench to give some help to one-man show Paul Millsap, rallying Atlanta to a 103-95 victory that denied the Philadelphia 76ers their first winning streak in nearly three months.
The Hawks, clinging to the final playoff spot in the East, snapped a six-game losing streak and won for only the seventh time in 27 games. They came into the night one game ahead of the New York Knicks.
"We all kind of looked at each other," said Hawks guard Kyle Korver, who returned to the lineup after missing six games with back spasms. "We all know what's on the line."
Williams sat out seven straight games in March, but it didn't have anything to do with being hurt. He was on the outs with first-year coach Mike Budenholzer, who didn't play his top bench scorer for seven straight games even though the Hawks were struggling mightily.
The message received, Williams' playing time has picked up over the last seven games. He came through with two crucial 3-pointers in the closing minutes as the Hawks bounced back from an early 14-point deficit.
"That's what we've been expecting from him all season," teammate DeMarre Carroll said. "Coach did a good job of not playing Lou, to show him that he couldn't take his opportunities for granted. He's playing some better basketball now."
Millsap carried the Hawks much of the night, also snagging a season-high 17 rebounds. But Williams hit the biggest shots down the stretch, a floater that snapped a 92-all tie, then back-to-back 3s from deep in the same corner to finish off the 76ers. It was his most points since a season-high 28 against Charlotte on Dec. 28.
"That was the first time I had to deal with that in my career," Williams said on his benching. "We weren't in a good rhythm and Coach wanted to change things up, try something new. He told me to stay ready. That's what I did."
The 76ers were coming off a victory over Detroit, snapping an NBA record-tying streak of 26 consecutive losses. But they couldn't win two in a row for the first time since Jan. 4.