for this game

Johnson helps Hawks earn fifth win in a row

Dec 27, 2007 - 4:13 AM By Phil Foley PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

ATLANTA (Ticker) - The good fortunes keep on accumulating for the young Atlanta Hawks.

Joe Johnson collected 26 points and 11 assists and Josh Smith scored 16 as the soaring Hawks extended their winning streak to five games with Wednesday's 107-95 victory over the Indiana Pacers.

Marvin Williams poured in 14 points and Anthony Johnson chipped in 13 for Atlanta, which has its first five-game winning streak since November 27-December 8, 1999.

"It kind of makes it all special, knowing where we have come from the last two years," Joe Johnson said. "To win five in a row, I can't remember the last time the Hawks did that. It's a blessing, but we have to stay focused."

With the contest knotted at 70-70, the 26-year-old Joe Johnson drained an 18-foot jumper that ignited a 12-0 surge to bridge the final two quarters as Atlanta took the lead for good with 10:13 remaining in the third.

"We're playing more relaxed," Joe Johnson said. "The guys have another year under their belt. We're just taking our time. In years past, when teams made a run, we tended to try to get it all back at once. But now, we're just taking our time on offense and it's coming easier to us."

Buoyed by two 3-pointers from Troy Murphy, Indiana rattled off 11 of the next 13 points to cut the lead to 84-81 at the 7:53 mark. But Atlanta answered right back, extending the lead back to eight on Smith's layup a minute later.

After Danny Granger's 3-pointer cut Indiana's deficit to 89-86 with 6:12 seconds remaining, Atlanta scored the next seven points to put the game out of reach.

"We had one less run than they did and their key run was at the end," Indiana coach Jim O'Brien said. "We just didn't have enough answers."

Atlanta is playing their best basketball in more than eight years.

The snake-bitten Hawks franchise, which has not made it to the playoffs since the 1998-1999 campaign, is beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

"Teams are starting to realize that it's not a walk in the park when they're playing in Philips Arena," Smith said. "Five in a row, six in a row, it doesn't matter. We're on a winning streak and we're not letting it get to us."

Atlanta, which set a dubious franchise record in the 2004-2005 season with just 13 wins, bested that mark with Saturday's win over Washington en route to notching its 14th win of the season.

The rebuilding process took another positive step as the Hawks continued their winning ways and claimed sole possession of fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

"We're better," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "These guys have grown up. I've got three and four-year guys I hold accountable. They're starting to grow up and make plays."

The Hawks improved to 9-3 this month, their most wins in December since the 1993-94 squad finished with an identical record - eons ahead of the 2004-05 team that failed to put together a winning streak of any kind.

"It's refreshing for us," said Josh Childress, who along with Smith was a rookie that season. "Obviously, the season is far from over. But we're doing things now that we haven't done before. If we continue to keep the same mentality, we're going to surprise a lot of people."

"I think everybody saw it coming over the last couple of years," O'Brien said. "They're building some really good talent. I think their team is playing a cohesive-type of basketball. They seem to be playing very team-oriented at both ends."

Murphy scored 19 points and Jermaine O'Neal and Jamaal Tinsley each added 16 for Indiana, which had captured four of its five games entering this one.

"You gotta give (the Hawks) credit," Tinsley said. "They did what they had to do and fought hard down the stretch."

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