Williams, Hawks rout struggling NetsFeb 3, 2008 - 3:47 AM By Phil Foley PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
ATLANTA (Ticker) -- The Atlanta Hawks took control of a much-needed game in their quest to end an eight-year playoff drought.
Marvin Williams scored 24 points and Josh Smith and Josh Childress chipped in 23 apiece to lead the Hawks to a 104-92 rout of the lifeless New Jersey Nets on Saturday night.
Rookie Al Horford poured in 14 points and All-Star Joe Johnson added 10 for Atlanta, which snapped a four-game losing streak against New Jersey.
"That was a really good game for us," Childress said. "I think we needed this win badly, just for our confidence. New Jersey is struggling a little bit, just like we are."
The Hawks put the game away in the second quarter and never looked back.
After New Jersey cut Atlanta's advantage to four on Antoine Wright's three-point play just 13 seconds into the second, the Hawks scored 24 of the game's next 33 points to put the game away.
The Hawks went small with guards Tyronn Lue and rookie Acie Law IV playing prominent roles during the spurt. The duo imposed their will on the Nets' defense, combining for six assists and finding Williams and Smith all over the court.
"(New Jersey) went small as well," Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said. "I went with Lue and Acie. I think Acie did a great job. He was able to get (eight) assists."
Williams led the way with 10 points and Smith capped the run with four, including a 19-foot jumper by Law, to give Atlanta a 49-30 lead with 3:42 remaining in the period.
"Every night, teams are going to really zone in on Joe Johnson," Williams said. "It's up to (Smith and Childress) and myself to take the pressure off him."
"When Josh Smith, Marvin Williams and Josh Childress play at that level like we did tonight, we're going to have a great chance at winning the games," Woodson added. "I thought all three were unbelievable."
New Jersey never mounted a serious threat thereafter, cutting its deficit to nine points in the fourth quarter, before Atlanta quickly regained a double-digit cushion.
"The Hawks had a little more juice than us," New Jersey coach Lawrence Frank said. "If you look at it, they had 58 points in the paint and 23 fast-break points. They clearly had more energy than us tonight."
For Hawks' fans, the clubs last eight futile seasons have been like watching the movie "Groundhog Day," as the club has come up short in its quest to make the playoffs since the lockout-shortened 1998-99 campaign.
And it looked as if the Hawks were going to repeat their dubious fate while undergoing yet another January freeze, finishing the month by dropping seven of their last eight games to fall a season-high six games under the .500 mark.
But luckily for Atlanta (19-24), the rest of the bottom of the putrid Eastern Conference struggled.
New Jersey (20-27) has dropped 10 of its last 12 games, and Indiana (19-29) has lost 11 of 14 to somehow keep the Hawks in the seventh playoff position in the Eastern Conference.
"It ain't pretty, but we'll take it," Johnson said. "We still have a lot more room for improvement."
"As bad as we've played, you couldn't ask for a better scenario," Williams said. "We just have to build on this win."
The Nets started the game with a bang from two of its players that will likely not be in a New Jersey uniform at the end of the season.
Top trade target Jason Kidd found the soon-to-be-traded Jason Collins for the dunk for the Nets' first bucket of the game.
"Coach drew up that play for me," said Collins, who started even though he likely will be traded to Memphis for Stromile Swift on Monday. "I had to make that dunk."
New Jersey took a 13-10 lead midway through the first period before Atlanta held the club without a field goal for the next five minutes, embarking on an 11-0 run to take the lead for good.
Johnson scored four points during the spurt, including an 11-foot jumper to give the Hawks a 21-13 lead with 50 seconds remaining.
"Just us being back at home, and feeding off the crowd, gave us some energy," said Johnson, whose club returned to Atlanta for four straight home games after a five-game West Coast swing. "I think that definitely helped us. We just came out and were aggressive from the start."
Richard Jefferson scored 23 points and reserve Bostjan Nachbar added 16 for New Jersey, which fell to 8-5 against Southeast Division opponents this season.
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