for this game

Johnson's 28 points help Hawks cruise past Bucks

Mar 27, 2008 - 3:00 AM By Phil Foley PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

ATLANTA (Ticker) -- The Atlanta Hawks may have grabbed a must-win game at Philips Arena, but they may have lost their point guard in the process.

Joe Johnson tallied a team-high 28 points and reserve Josh Childress added 20 to lead the Hawks to a 115-96 victory over the struggling Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday.

Mike Bibby scored 16 points before leaving with a left thumb injury in the fourth quarter and Marvin Williams added 16 for Atlanta (31-40), which is one-half game ahead of the New Jersey Nets (31-41) for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. New Jersey defeated the Indiana Pacers, 124-117, on Wednesday.

"Right now, it's do-or-die," said Hawks coach Mike Woodson, who reached the century mark in wins with the Hawks. "We're trying to make the playoffs. (The players) really want to make the playoffs as much as I do."

Johnson's fadeaway jumper five minutes into the second half ignited a 15-4 Atlanta run to essentially put the game away. Bibby tallied seven points and dished a key assist in the spurt.

"We just had to make sure that we all got on the same page defensively," Childress said. "They have great scorers, and we really had to try to limit (Michael Redd's) opportunities and the rest of the scorer's opportunities.

"We knew this offense would take care of itself, and it obviously did."

Milwaukee chipped to within five on Charlie Villanueva's turnaround hook shoot with 4:42 remaining to cut the lead to 84-79. But Atlanta opened the fourth quarter with a 13-6 run to put the game away.

Childress, who is in the running for the NBA's Sixth Man award, recorded a monstrous dunk with 9:10 remaining in the final period to give the Hawks a 102-86 lead, and Johnson capped the spurt with a 3-pointer to give Atlanta an insurmountable 19-point cushion.

Despite the double-digit victory, Joe Johnson was not pleased with his team's performance.

"At this point of the season, you can't do that," Johnson said of the club's lack of defense in the first half. "I think the effort really wasn't there for us tonight."

The Hawks, who led by as many as 21 on another dunk by Childress, grabbed a much-needed win in their race to make the postseason for the first time since the lockout-shortened 1998-99 campaign.

Atlanta, which entered with a slim lead over New Jersey, also is being chased by the Pacers (29-43) and the Chicago Bulls (28-43) for the final spot in the bottom of a weak Eastern Conference.

"This is going to be a learning experience for us," Smith said of the young Hawks, who have 66 games of postseason experience - all from Bibby and Johnson. "Hopefully, it's not the last time we'll be in the playoff (race).

"We can only go on the experience Joe and Bibby had in the playoffs."

Atlanta received a scare when Bibby left the game at the 11:15 mark of the fourth quarter after being hit on the hand by Milwaukee center Dan Gadzuric.

The 10-year veteran, who was acquired from the Kings on February 16, was taken back to the locker room where an X-ray was taken on the injury. X-rays were negative and he will be re-evaluated on Thursday.

Bibby, who missed the first 36 games of the season while with the Sacramento Kings after having surgery on that thumb, will be reevaluated on Thursday.

"I think he sprained the thumb he had surgery on," said Woodson, who doesn't expect Bibby to miss Friday's game against the Chicago Bulls.

The Hawks were able to overcome monster quarters from Redd and Andrew Bogut.

Redd scored 19 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field to lead the Bucks to a 37-32 lead after the first quarter. When Redd slowed down, it was the Bogut, who toyed with Atlanta's weak interior defense.

"It was a little frustrating not to keep my offensive spurt going," said Redd, who scored just one point after the first. "It's really kind of hard to explain. I wasn't any less aggressive. It just didn't work out after the first quarter."

Bogut finished the second period with 16 of his team-high 27 points, connecting on all six of his shots from the field. The Australian center also left this contest with a facial laceration after being hit by Williams when Bogut went up for an alley-oop attempt.

"I'm not sure if my nose is broken yet, but after the X-rays, we'll find out," Bogut said. "I wanted to get back out on the floor, but obviously, with all of blood, I couldn't do it. If the game were close at that point, I probably would have gone back out there, but it made no sense at that point."

"He's a load," Woodson said of Bogut. "We knew in the second have we changed some of our coverages. We also slowed Redd down. We did a great job of that in the second half."

Nevertheless, the Hawks held a 65-60 lead at the intermission thanks to Johnson, Childress and Zaza Pachulia. Johnson poured in 18, Childress added 11 and Pachulia tallied nine.

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