for this game

Johnson's game-winner helps Hawks edge Timberwolves

Dec 7, 2007 - 4:19 AM ATLANTA (Ticker) -- Joe Johnson made sure that the Atlanta Hawks did not suffer another embarrassing loss.

Johnson scored 21 points and hit the game-winning jumper at the buzzer as the Hawks squeaked by the Minnesota Timberwolves, 90-89, on Thursday.

Josh Smith scored a game-high 28 points and blocked seven shots, and Marvin Williams scored 20 for Atlanta, which led by 13 at halftime.

The Hawks, however, nearly squandered the lead to the Timberwolves, who have dropped five straight.

It would have been the second straight game the Hawks had let the game get away immediately after the intermission. On Tuesday, Atlanta was outscored, 30-13, in the third quarter en route to dropping a 106-95 decision to the Pistons.

"I think we really made this game a lot more difficult than we should have," Johnson said. "If we kept working hard, we could have won by 20 points. Instead, we had to come up with a great shot at the end."

With Atlanta trailing, 89-88, with less than three seconds left, Johnson caught an inbounds pass, drove to his right before pulling up from the elbow for a shot that hit all net as the time clock expired.

"(My shots) weren't falling," said Johnson, who was shooting just 35 percent (7-for-20) from the field before hitting the game winner. "My teammates and the coaching staff all had faith in me. I got a good look at the end and made the shot."

"He's a great player," Hawks guard Anthony Johnson said. "That last basket was an unbelievable shot by our star player to take us home."

With the score tied at 85-85 after the Timberwolves' Al Jefferson made a jumper with 59 seconds left, Johnson split a pair of free throws to give the Hawks a one-point lead. However on an inbounds play, Marko Jaric made a layup off a nice pass from rookie Corey Brewer with 20 seconds on the clock to give the Wolves an 87-86 edge.

After a timeout, Smith hit an off-balance bank shot with seven seconds left to again put the Hawks up by one. It looked as if Minnesota would win the game when Jaric drove from the top of the key past Smith for a layup with 2.2 seconds remaining to make it, 89-88.

"We gave a great effort, which helped us get back in the game," Jaric said. "Unfortunately, at the end of the game, they had a bit more luck. I think we executed well and played good defense, but Joe Johnson hit a tough shot to give them the win."

Atlanta had full control of this contest earlier in the game. The Hawks were cruising against the Timberwolves, opening the contest by scoring 26 of the first 33 points before taking a 53-40 advantage into the intermission.

But the resurgent Wolves outscored Atlanta, 27-8, in the third to take a 67-61 advantage entering the final quarter.

"We showed some signs of life in the second half," Timberwolves acting coach Jerry Sichting said. "But we got down early, which made it hard to overcome tonight. This is a tough loss to swallow because I thought we should have won, but sometimes the ball doesn't bounce your way."

Atlanta shot just 20-percent (3-for-15) from the field in the third quarter to match a franchise-low for points in a quarter with eight.

"We were just flat, and I thought that we were just going to roll over this team," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "All these NBA teams, they've got pride. I know Minnesota is struggling to win ballgames, but they play hard. They showed that tonight, and took it all the way to the end."

Johnson, who was held to just five points on 2-for-10 shooting on Tuesday, also found his groove early on in this one. He connected on his first three shots, surpassing his last game's output before 10 minutes had been played in the contest.

But like the rest of the club, Johnson struggled in the third, missing all four of his shots. Fortunately for the Hawks, he made the big one when it mattered.

"(The ending) just about gave me a heart attack," Woodson said. "I don't think we had a third quarter that bad this season, where we just didn't do anything right on both ends of the floor. We dug a hole, but guys kept scrapping at the end."

Reserve Craig Smith scored a season-high 20 points and Jaric had 18 for the Timberwolves, who shot 39 percent (37-of-95).

Jefferson scored 17 points and Brewer had six points and a season-high 18 rebounds for Minnesota, which has a league-worst 2-15 record.