84 - 93 Final
  for this game

Johnson, Hawks down struggling Bobcats

Dec 16, 2007 - 4:05 AM By Phil Foley PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

ATLANTA (Ticker) -- Joe Johnson made sure that the Atlanta Hawks finally have a winning streak against the Charlotte Bobcats.

Johnson scored 31 points and Marvin Williams added 20 to lead Atlanta to a 93-84 victory over Charlotte on Saturday night.

Josh Smith added 19 points and Anthony Johnson scored 12 for the shorthanded Hawks, which won two straight over the Bobcats for the first time in the four-year history of the series.

"It was a great team effort," Williams said. "The guys shared the ball, and we defended."

Johnson's 3-pointer with 9:15 remaining in the third quarter ignited a 16-4 Hawks' run, which turned a close two-point game into a blowout. The 26-year-old Johnson was on fire during the run, scoring eight points and grabbing two rebounds to help Atlanta build a 65-51 lead.

"I just wanted to be aggressive tonight attacking the basket," said Johnson, who also credited his teammates. "When I got open looks, take them. I thought we all did a good job moving the ball, getting the extra pass to getting me the look. I think that was the biggest thing tonight. We had 24 assists. Everyone was moving the ball."

The Hawks, who led by as many as 17 on Smith's two-handed dunk at 11:44 of the fourth quarter, saw their lead whittled down to as little as eight points in the game's final minutes.

But Johnson stomped on Charlotte's remote chance at a comeback, draining a long jumper and a 3-pointer on the Atlanta's next two possessions to give the Hawks a 90-77 lead with 2:54 remaining.

"This is a game that we needed Joe," Smith said. "He came out and shot the ball extremely well. He let (Charlotte's defense) come to him today."

The Hawks' lone All-Star in 2006, Johnson had one of his best games of the season - finishing with five 3-pointers, shooting 50 percent (12-for-24) from the field, grabbing four rebounds and dishing out six assists.

"Joe Johnson is Joe Johnson," Charlotte coach Sam Vincent said. "He's an elite player in this league. He makes big shots, he plays under control and he gets to the rim. I thought our guys made a good effort to defend him, but he's just one of the best players in the league, so he's difficult to contain."

It couldn't have come at a better time for the Hawks, who dressed just 10 players and played without sixth-man Josh Childress (right groin strain) and guards Salim Stoudamire (right ankle strain), Acie Law IV (left ankle sprain) and Tyronn Lue (left calf strain).

Forward Shelden Williams, who was carjacked while leaving a barbershop on Cascade Road in South Fulton County earlier Saturday, dressed but played just two minutes.

"We were shorthanded," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "Everybody was hurt. When you've got Childress and Acie Law and Lue and Speedy (Claxton) sitting out there in suits. That's tough. Those are your perimeter players that you count on to come off the bench and play minutes for you. I think our guys came up big time."

Over the past four seasons, it has been difficult at times to figure out whether Charlotte - the NBA's newest team or Atlanta, one of its least successful, was the actual expansion team.

In the first three years of the matchup, the Bobcats have feasted on the Hawks, taking three of four games in each season series in the I-85 rivalry and finishing with either a better or the same record as the struggling Hawks at the end of each campaign.

But this season has been one of promise for the Hawks, the NBA's youngest team at an average of 25 years, 193 days old. Atlanta (11-12) has won six of its last nine games to position itself to make a run for its first playoff appearance in eight seasons.

If history is any indication, a playoff run may be in the cards for Atlanta, which picked up its 11th victory in its 23rd game of the season, the fastest the beleaguered franchise has gotten to 11 victories in a season since the club started its last playoff run at 11-9 during the lockout-shortened 1998-1999 campaign.

"In the past, we would have struggled to get the win," Smith said. "We had 24 assists. As a team, we played together, shared the ball, hit a man when he was open, and we knocked down shots. We played defense, too."

Charlotte jumped out to a 15-7 lead behind four points apiece from rookie Jared Dudley and Raymond Felton before Atlanta scored 10 of the next 12 points to knot the game at 17-17 on Johnson's turnaround jumper at 3:56 of the first period.

"We made a couple of runs tonight," Vincent said. "But not enough to get over the top."

Gerald Wallace scored 24 points and Nazr Mohammed added six points in 20 minutes in his debut for the struggling Bobcats, who have lost 10 of their last 12 games.

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