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Williams hits decisive free throw as Hawks rally late

Dec 7, 2006 - 5:11 AM DENVER (Ticker) -- Rookie Shelden Williams sank a pair of free throws with 5.4 seconds left as the Atlanta Hawks rallied from a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit for a stunning 98-96 victory over the Denver Nuggets.

Joe Johnson scored 27 points and Salim Stoudamire added a season-high 21 for the Hawks, who improved to 2-1 on their five-game road trip.

"It is a big confidence-booster, especially the way that we came back," Stoudamire said. "We had two options - either fold or rally together, and I think that we rallied together and showed some grit. We believed in each other."

A three-point play by Carmelo Anthony, who scored 24 points, gave Denver a 78-61 lead just 12 seconds into the final period.

But the Hawks showed their resiliency, climbing all the way back to temporarily take the lead at 92-91 on a 3-pointer by Johnson with 3:14 to go.

In the closing seconds, Williams forced a jump ball with Andre Miller, and Stoudamire was credited with a basket following a goaltending violation by J.R. Smith for a 96-96 tie.

After an empty possession by the Nuggets, Williams lured Marcus Camby into a foul before calmly sinking two foul shots.

"This says a lot about our ballclub," said Williams, who scored seven points. "We had a lot of guys out and we just kept fighting for the whole 48 minutes. Hopefully we can take this win and build off of it. I've been in that situation a lot and I just treated them like normal free throws and it worked out well for me."

Denver had a chance to tie, but Miller missed a banker as time expired.

"This loss hurts. We gave this game away," Denver coach George Karl said. "It hurts, it's painful. Out of our six losses, we've probably given three of them away. Until we grow up and be more disciplined, focused, and committed and understand why we have leads and why we give them back, we are going to continue to have the same growing pains. I don't know why it is, but we seem to play the fourth quarter a little immature. A little bit too much I, and not we."

The Hawks won without center Zaza Pachulia, who was suspended one game for a flagrant-2 foul against Seattle's Johan Petro on Tuesday. Lorenzen Wright started in his place and had four points and six rebounds.

"You have to tip your hat to the guys in the locker room," Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said. "They just don't quit. They compete from beginning to end. We were down huge in that fourth quarter and we just kept chipping away play after play until we finally secured the win."

Smith had 12 points and Marcus Camby collected 11, 15 rebounds and eight assists for the Nuggets, who had won seven of their last eight games.

"We are giving away games," Miller said. "We were up 14 or 16 points in the fourth quarter. We gave up almost 40 in the fourth. We deserve to lose."

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