for this game

Bibby sparks Hawks past Kings

Feb 28, 2008 - 6:28 AM By Phil Foley PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

ATLANTA (Ticker) - Mike Bibby sure did make a good impression in his home debut.

Bibby had 24 points and 12 assists against his former team and Joe Johnson scored 26 points to lead the Atlanta Hawks to a rare 123-117 win over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday.

Josh Childress scored 11 of his 25 points in the third quarter and Rookie of the Year candidate Al Horford recorded a double-double with 16 points and 14 rebounds for Atlanta, which snapped a two-game losing streak.

"It was a win we definitely needed," Bibby said. "We almost gave it back to them, but we finished plays off and got rebounds when we needed them and got some baskets when we needed them."

With the Hawks on the brink of making their first playoff appearance this side of the millennium, general manager Billy Knight rolled the dice, addressing the team's most glaring need by acquiring Bibby from Sacramento to fill the club's perennial vacuum at point guard.

Bibby, who tallied just two points on 1-for-11 shooting against San Antonio on Monday, rebounded from one of his worst outings of his professional career to post a solid game in his Atlanta debut, a feat that did not surprise his former teammates.

"We thought he would have a big game against us tonight," Kings center Brad Miller said. "This is his first home game with his new team, so we thought he would be gunning for us tonight. He did everything we're used to seeing him doing. He attacked the basket, got to the foul line and got his teammates involved."

The 29-year old Bibby scored nine points and dished seven assists in Atlanta's season-best 40-point first quarter and combined with Childress to tally 21 of the club's 34 third-quarter points and help Atlanta build a 93-85 lead through three quarters.

"He adds a totally different dimension," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "It's something we didn't have in terms of a point guard. Not only can he distribute the ball, but he can score as well. He was huge tonight."

Atlanta extended the advantage to 108-94 on Johnson's 3-pointer with 6:49 remaining in the fourth, but Sacramento scored the next 10 points to cut the lead to 108-104 when Francisco Garcia split 1-of-2 free throws.

But Childress drained two crucial free throws to seal the victory and help the Hawks defeat the Kings for only the third time in their last 15 games dating to the 2000-01 campaign.

"We were being aggressive tonight," Childress said. "We know that Sacramento is a very potent team offensively. We just came and tried to get stops. They made a run, but we held onto the lead."

Atlanta rebounded from a miserable West Coast swing, dropping four of five on the road while the circus replaced Hawks basketball at Philips Arena.

The club also had dropped eight of their last nine overall to fall 1 1/2 games behind the Philadelphia 76ers in the race for the final playoff spot in the anemic Eastern Conference.

Atlanta almost continued the misery and spoiled Bibby's strong first quarter with a sub-par second.

Taking a page from their Monday loss to the reigning world champion Spurs, the Hawks quickly allowed a 13-point first-quarter lead to evaporate. Sacramento closed the gap by scoring 21 of the final 32 points of the first half to trail, 59-58, at the break.

But this time Atlanta wouldn't let another crucial game slip away.

"I'm just glad we won," Woodson said. "That's what is important as we come down the homestretch these last 27 games. It's one game at a time, and we're still in the hunt. We're trying to stay on track and win basketball games. That's what it's all about."

Relying in part on the team mantra of "commitment" - the definition of which was posted for the first time in each of the player's lockers after the contest - Atlanta responded with a solid third frame to take a 93-85 lead into the game's final quarter.

"We talked about it earlier," Johnson said. "We have these last 27 games - if we're going to make the playoffs - these last 27 games, we need to be committed. The last 27 games, we need to bump it out."

"One of our coaches put them in (our lockers)," said Atlanta forward Josh Smith, who finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds. "It kind of puts it in our head that we have to stay committed to playing. We'll play good here and on the road we'll struggle. We've got to focus more."

Brad Miller and Beno Udrih scored 25 points apiece and Ron Artest added 23 for the Kings, who have lost three straight games.

"We didn't play well tonight," Artest said. "You could definitely see it in the first and third quarters. With them scoring 40 in the first and 34 in the third, it made a big difference tonight. Mike had a big game but the Hawks, as a whole, played well, which is why they won tonight."

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