for this game

Bibby, Hawks hold off lowly Knicks

Mar 1, 2008 - 4:30 AM By Phil Foley PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

ATLANTA (Ticker) -- The acquisition of Mike Bibby continued to pay dividends for the Atlanta Hawks.

Bibby had 11 points, including four crucial points down the stretch, and dished 10 assists and Josh Smith poured in a team-high 25 points to lead the Atlanta Hawks to a 99-93 victory over the lowly New York Knicks on Friday.

Rookie Al Horford recorded his rookie-leading 15th double-double, scoring a career-high 20 points and grabbing 11 rebounds and All-Star Joe Johnson added 20 points for Atlanta, which won back-to-back games for just the fourth time in 2008.

"It was a total team effort down the stretch," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "We were able to secure the win with our defense and rebounding the ball. Bibby and Joe made some plays coming down the stretch run."

The Hawks, who are knocking on the playoff door for the first time this millennium, addressed their biggest need by trading for Bibby - a player known for his innate ability to create at the point - at the All-Star Break.

With the game in the balance on Friday, the nine-year veteran showed that the trade might have been just what the Hawks needed to get them over the hump.

Atlanta, which trailed by one in the game's final 90 seconds, went almost five minutes without a point before Woodson called timeout and drew up a play on the bench where Atlanta's new point guard would find Smith in the low post for the jam.

The 29-year old Bibby executed the play with perfection, finding the former Slam Dunk champion Smith for a monstrous dunk with 1:12 remaining to give Atlanta a 92-91 lead.

"He's a very crafty player," Smith said. "If he drives it to the hole and I dive, I can help my team get an easy layup or an easy dunk."

"(Bibby) makes the game easy for everyone," Horford said. "I like playing with him. We feed off of him and try to make plays."

After a miss on the other end, Woodson uncharacteristically elected not to call timeout, but instead allow his new point guard to create his own play on the fly.

Bibby did not disappoint, pulling up for a jumper on the right wing to extend the lead before draining two free throws with 11.5 seconds remaining to put the game away.

"The last couple of games when we needed it, the guys stepped up big," Bibby said. "Everybody's playing hard. You can't teach playing hard."

"It's not easy for a point guard that's been in one spot for a number of years to get used to a new system," Woodson said. "Mike is doing a tremendous job for us. I'm going to depend on Bibby a lot more. He's capable of running the team. He's done it in the past."

Nate Robinson followed with New York's second field goal in the game's last eight minutes before Marvin Williams drained three of four free throws to seal the victory.

Atlanta, which led by as many as eight in the third quarter, held an 81-74 lead on Josh Childress' dunk with 2:07 remaining in the third quarter before New York exploded with a 16-2 run bridging the third and fourth quarters.

Reserve Fred Jones scored four points during the spurt and Zach Randolph also poured in four, including a jumper with 8:02 remaining to give the Knicks an 88-83 lead.

The resilient Hawks would answer right back, scoring seven of the next eight points to take a 90-89 lead on Horford's dunk over former Florida teammate David Lee with 6:11 remaining in the fourth.

"He's my guy," Horford said of his former teammate. "If I would have tried to lay it up, he would have blocked the shot. I had to go strong."

The tally capped a sensational night for the emerging Rookie of the Year candidate Horford, who is averaging almost a double-double a night. The two-time National Champion Gator is first amongst all rookies, averaging 9.5 points and 10.0 rebounds per game.

"He's definitely my Rookie of the Year," Johnson said. "You're looking at a guy who is averaging a double-double every night. He's the only rookie to do that."

After Horford's heroics, the game came to a grinding halt.

Both clubs couldn't buy a bucket for the next three minutes, trading missed shot for missed shot before Randolph finally broke through with a hook shot with 2:51 remaining to give New York a 91-90 lead.

"This game was sloppy down the stretch," Knicks guard Jamal Crawford said. "There was a six-minute stretch where neither team could score a basket. We just went back and forth. This was a tough game and, unfortunately, the ending was all too familiar."

Randolph scored a season-high 29 points and pulled down 17 rebounds and Jamal Crawford added 21 points for New York, which has not won back-to-back games since winning three straight from January 13-16.

"This was a tough loss tonight," Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said. "We didn't execute on some plays down the stretch. We just couldn't seem to get any shots to fall late, which hurt us."

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