Johnson, Hawks finally beat BobcatsNov 15, 2007 - 4:08 AM By Phil Foley PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
ATLANTA (Ticker) -- The Atlanta Hawks took a big step towards jettisoning their losing ways by finally beating the Charlotte Bobcats.
Joe Johnson scored 34 points and Josh Childress added 23 to lead the Hawks to a 117-109 win over the Bobcats on Wednesday.
Atlanta, which never trailed, shot a blistering 70 percent (14-of-20) from the field en route to scoring a season-high 37 first-quarter points to take a 15-point advantage after one quarter.
"With a team like Charlotte, who plays hard, we had to jump on them early," Hawks forward Josh Smith said. "We all had a collective effort defensively and offensively to share the basketball."
"We came out flat tonight," Bobcats guard Jason Richardson said. "They had the game won by the end of the first quarter."
The tandem of Johnson and Smith were dominant in the period, connecting on 8-of-10 shots, outscoring the entire Bobcats' cast by a 24-22 margin.
"We wanted to come out and get off to a great start," Johnson said. "I just wanted to come out and attack the basket early and make plays. I thought we did a great job in that."
The Hawks, who led by as many as 18 points on Johnson's two free throws with 2:06 remaining in the first quarter, looked more like the team that went 7-1 in the preseason than the club that had miserable back-to-back performances against the high-powered Boston Celtics and the previously winless Washington Wizards.
"We felt that Washington was a game that got away from us," Childress said. "We didn't give ourselves a chance to get the win. Tonight we were very effective capitalizing on their mistakes and being the aggressor."
Over the past three seasons, it was hard to figure out whether the Bobcats - the NBA's newest team - or the Hawks, one of its most futile, were the actual expansion team.
Charlotte defeated Atlanta nine out of 12 times and finished with either the same or a better record than the Hawks at the end of each campaign. But Atlanta may have finally figured out its Southeast Division rival.
"I've noticed that (Charlotte has beaten us) the last few years," Johnson said. "We wanted to come out and get out to a great start to have success against this team."
The Hawks dominated the Bobcats in just about every statistical category, outrebounding Charlotte by a 38-29 margin, blocking nine shots and dishing out 29 assists. Atlanta held a 62-44 advantage in points in the paint and outscored Charlotte, 22-16, in transition.
Atlanta imposed its will on Charlotte, which is missing key components Adam Morrison (torn left ACL), Sean May (right knee surgery) and Othella Harrington (left knee surgery).
In a scintillating stretch in the second quarter, Smith recorded the second of his five blocks, swatting Jason Richardson's shot. Rookie center Al Horford snagged the loose ball and fed Marvin Williams for the fast-break dunk to give the Hawks a 50-37 advantage with 5:20 remaining.
Charlotte tried to make a game of it in the second half, outscoring Atlanta, 26-18, in the third to cut the lead to 81-74. But the Hawks answered right back, scoring nine of the first 11 points in the final quarter to seal the victory.
"We waited too late to really try to play with some urgency," Charlotte coach Sam Vincent said. "We let them run out on us in the first quarter, and then we realized we had to play very well to even be in this game. We can't let a team like Atlanta get in front of you early."
Childress capped the fourth-period outburst with a fast-break layup with 9:09 remaining to give Atlanta a 90-77 lead.
"Against Dallas and Phoenix, we played complete games and didn't buckle when the other team made runs," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said of Atlanta's other two victories this season. "And tonight, we did the same thing. They cut it to seven points, and we hung right in there and made the plays we needed to coming down the stretch."
While the result of the game may have been favorable to the Hawks, the news was not all good for the home team.
Smith left the game three minutes into the second half with a strained left quadriceps and did not return, while rookie Acie Law IV sprained his left ankle when Charlotte center Ryan Hollins fell on him with 6:47 remaining in the third.
Smith will have an MRI on Thursday, while Law will receive treatment. Both players are listed as day-to-day.
"We'll have to evaluate them (Thursday) and see where they are," Woodson said.
Gerald Wallace and Richardson scored 27 points apiece for the Bobcats, who lost for the first time this season when tallying 90 or more points.
ATLANTA 117 FINAL
Nov 14 9:22 PM
ATLANTA 81 END, 3RD QTR
Nov 14 8:51 PM
ATLANTA 63 HALFTIME
Nov 14 8:09 PM
ATLANTA 37 END, 1ST QTR
Nov 14 7:38 PM
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