for this game

Johnson helps Hawks stun Lakers

Feb 7, 2008 - 5:04 AM By Phil Foley PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

ATLANTA (Ticker) -- The Atlanta Hawks continue to take care of business against the elite class of the Western Conference at home.

Joe Johnson scored 28 points and Josh Smith added 17 to help the Hawks overcome a fourth-quarter deficit to shock the Los Angeles Lakers, 98-95, at Philips Arena on Wednesday.

Former Laker Tyronn Lue netted 16 points and rookie Al Horford had 15 and a season-high 20 rebounds for Atlanta, which has won three straight.

"It was a dogfight from the beginning to the end," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "What can you say? We beat a good team. We were solid all the way through."

Atlanta has had success on its home floor against the Western Conference's elite - defeating Dallas, Phoenix, Utah and Denver entering Wednesday's play.

The Hawks slayed another one of the West's top clubs despite hearing numerous Lakers fans.

"That's probably the best win we had all year," said Smith, who also had nine rebounds and nine assists. "It was half Lakers fans, half Hawks fans, or maybe 80-20. We were able to feed off the crowd."

With the game tied at 93-93, Atlanta turned to Johnson, who connected on both free throws with 23 seconds left to give the Hawks a two-point lead before forcing a turnover on Los Angeles superstar Kobe Bryant.

Bryant, who has a dislocated right pinky finger, was dribbling the ball above the arc when Johnson took a swipe at the ball. Bothered by the injury, the reigning two-time scoring champion lost his grip which led to a over-and-back call.

"Oh yeah, (it affected me on the play)," said Bryant, whose right hand was wrapped in ice after the game. "It bounced right out of my hand."

Clearly favoring the injury, Bryant looked mortal, scoring just 11 points and connecting on just 1-of-9 shots in the second half.

"It is what it is," Bryant said. "It's dislocated. I'm just playing with three fingers. It's very swollen. It's a different feeling on the ball. It changes how you shoot."

Smith connect on the back end of two foul shots with seven seconds remaining to give Atlanta a three-point cushion.

Sasha Vujacic then drove to the hole for a layup with three seconds to go, cutting the deficit to 96-95.

Johnson added two more free throws to rebuild a three-point lead, giving the Lakers one last chance to force overtime, but Derek Fisher misfired on a wild 3-pointer at the buzzer.

With Bryant, Lamar Odom and Paul Gasol all resting, Smith sparked an 11-2 surge midway through the final period to get the Hawks back into the game. The former Slam Dunk champion scored the first five points of the spurt, including a monstrous dunk to begin the onslaught.

Horford capped the run by connecting on two free throws to forge an 88-87 lead with 3:40 remaining - Atlanta's first lead since the opening minute of the game.

"All their horses were sitting out," Smith said. "We had to get on a good roll before Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom got back into the game."

Odom followed with a jumper before Lue nailed a 3-pointer to give the Hawks a 93-91 lead with 1:25 left. Odom and Fisher split a pair of free throws to lock things up at 93-93.

"We never really took control of the game and put the Hawks in a position that they didn't think they could win," Fisher said. "When you do that playing a team that plays well on their own court, you are asking for a heartache or trouble."

Part of the reason for Atlanta's success was its defense despite an obvious size differential down low. The Hawks held a 46-37 advantage on the glass and outscored the Lakers, 50-38, in the paint.

"We were just resilient down there," Smith said. "We're outmatched every night, but it's all about heart and we just bring it every night to the table. We understand we're out-sized down there, but we don't use that as an excuse. We take it to them."

"We let them score too many easy buckets," said Gasol, who scored 12 points in his second game as a Laker. "We were relying too much on our outside shots. We should have protected more and cut down those easy buckets."

Odom collected 19 and 11 and Fisher scored 17 for the Lakers, who fell to 3-2 on their season-long nine-game tour of the Eastern Conference.

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