Johnson, Hawks snag crucial win over MagicMar 23, 2008 - 3:52 AM By Phil Foley PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
ATLANTA (Ticker) -- When the Atlanta Hawks needed to dig down deep for a crucial win, their two playoff-tested veterans came up huge.
Joe Johnson scored 14 of his team-high 34 points in the fourth quarter and Mike Bibby added 20, including three 3-pointers in the final period, to lift the playoff-challenged Hawks to a 98-90 victory over the Orlando Magic on Saturday.
Josh Smith collected 19 points and nine rebounds and Rookie of the Year candidate Al Horford recorded his rookie-leading 20th double-double with 11 and 10 for Atlanta (30-39), which moved 1 1/2 games ahead of the New Jersey Nets (29-41) for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
"Joe refused to let us lose, he and Bibby both," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "I wanted to rest (Joe). It's (crunch) time. We have to keep pushing and scraping and scratching to win games. You can't afford to lose right now, every win counts."
Johnson took control of a tied game, igniting Atlanta on an 8-2 run in the game's final four minutes.
After the Hawks' lone All-Star connected on a three-point play with 4:01 remaining to give them an 86-83 lead, sixth man Josh Childress followed with a layup to push the lead to five.
Keith Bogans cut Atlanta's lead back to three with a bucket with 2:18 remaining before Horford capped the spurt with a three-point play to give Atlanta a 91-85 lead 14 seconds later.
After the teams traded possessions, Rashard Lewis brought the Magic to within 93-90 with a 3-pointer with 46 seconds remaining, but Horford grabbed a crucial offensive rebound, and Bibby split a pair of free throws to secure the win.
"Mike and Joe are veteran players," Horford said. "They went in and took control of the game. That's what veterans do."
"We just made plays," Woodson said. "We made defensive plays. You hold (Orlando) to 90 points, you put yourself in position to win a lot of games."
Bibby and Johnson also helped keep the Hawks in the game earlier in the quarter, connecting three times from behind the arc to start the final period. The 29-year-old Bibby also drained another 3-pointer midway through the period en route to finishing with 12 points in the fourth quarter.
"Me and Mike are the veteran leaders on this team," Johnson said. "We took it upon ourselves to make big plays."
"Joe Johnson played really well tonight and he definitely destroyed us at the end of the game," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "Bibby hit some real big shots, a couple of back-breakers at the end of the game. We tried to get the all out of Joe's hands, but we didn't play one good defensive play against him tonight and he made us pay for it."
While Orlando couldn't stop Atlanta's leading scorer, Johnson, the Hawks did the opposite with the Magic's top scorer, limiting former Atlanta S.W. Christian Academy standout Dwight Howard to just 11 points.
The reigning Slam Dunk champion attempted a season-low five shots in 37 minutes.
"We played a team effort on him," Smith said of his long-time friend and AAU teammate Howard. "We're pre-school buddies. I've known him since pre-school, but it's not just me guarding him. It's Al Horford having to bang him, and Zaza Pachulia having to bang him. We did a great job on him, not trying to give him any easy looks at the bucket."
Atlanta built a double-digit, first-half lead, embarking on a 18-2 run bridging the first and second quarters to take a 33-19 lead on a jumper by Marvin Williams with 9:14 remaining in the second.
But Orlando's reserves brought their squad right back into it, scoring the next 11 points to cut the advantage to three. Keyon Dooling tallied five of his seven second-quarter points, and Bogans added four points, including a jumper with 6:22 remaining to cut Atlanta's lead to 33-30.
The Hawks came out of the gate in the second half strong, scoring the first seven points to erase a one-point first-half deficit. But the Magic responded with a 12-0 run to take a 57-51 lead with 6:11 remaining on Maurice Evans' reverse layup.
Hedo Turkoglu poured in 18 points and Jameer Nelson added 16 for Orlando, which has dropped its last six straight here dating back to November 26, 2004.
"We didn't come play our game at all," Lewis said. "We were just out there going through the motions. They pretty much executed on the offensive end, and we were a step slow on the pick-and-rolls. We didn't follow the gameplan at all."
ATLANTA 98 FINAL
Mar 22 9:31 PM
ATLANTA 63 END, 3RD QTR
Mar 22 8:53 PM
ATLANTA 44 HALFTIME
Mar 22 8:09 PM
ATLANTA 27 END, 1ST QTR
Mar 22 7:36 PM
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