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Johnson, Bibby lead Hawks over Sixers

Apr 6, 2008 - 3:20 AM PHILADELPHIA (Ticker) -- Joe Johnson got it started and Mike Bibby finished it off for Atlanta Hawks, who moved closer to a playoff berth on Saturday night.

Johnson scored 22 points and Bibby nailed a key jumper in the waning seconds as the Hawks held off the red-hot Philadelphia 76ers, 92-85, in the finale of a home-and-home series.

Josh Smith had 18 points and 10 rebounds and Marvin Williams also scored 18 for Atlanta, which suffered a 109-104 loss to Philadelphia on Friday night, allowing the Sixers to clinch their first playoff berth in three years.

One night later, the Hawks (36-41) took one step closer to a playoff spot of their own with their sixth win in seven games. They are 3 1/2 games ahead of the idle Indiana Pacers (32-44) for the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference with less than 10 games remaining.

"To come back within 24 hours and hold that team to 85 points is huge," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "It just means that we're growing as a team. We started with babies four years ago, and these guys are growing up. They are in a position where they are playing for something."

Atlanta's lone All-Star this season, Johnson shot 10-of-16 from the field to carry the Hawks, who shot 48 percent (34-of-71) and outrebounded the Sixers, 42-33.

"It's a lot of fun," Johnson said. "The excitement is great knowing that we're finishing out the season on a good note. We got a chance at getting a playoff berth for the first time since I've been here. I'm having a great time."

But Philadelphia made a late push in the fourth when Rodney Carney nailed a deep 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 90-85 with 1:20 left in the game.

"It took us a long time to adjust to their defense," 76ers forward Andre Iguodala said. "By that time, we were down by 14 and we had to fight back the whole way."

But Bibby, who is known for his late-game heroics, nailed a deep jumper with the shot clock running down on the ensuing possession to give Atlanta a seven-point advantage with 34.4 ticks left - effectively sealing the win.

"It is a play that is open a lot, and Joe found me," Bibby said. "I didn't hit a lot of them tonight. It was a good pass from Joe, and I was glad that it went in."

"All teams are going to make runs," Woodson said. "Joe hits a big three when they made the one run, and Bibby stepped up and made two big buckets that were huge."

The loss may have been a product of a letdown by Philadelphia (39-38), which has cemented its place in the postseason but sits just one game back of the Washington Wizards (40-37) for fifth place and three games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers (42-35) for the fourth spot.

"We couldn't get into the rhythm that we were in before," 76ers coach Maurice Cheeks said. "I thought that we relaxed a little bit. We can't play like that. We have to play aggressive games every time we are out on the floor."

"They played extremely hard," Sixers guard Louis Williams said. "This was the hardest that they played all season. They had a sense of urgency, and we relaxed in the first half."

In the third quarter, Hawks rookie center Al Horford pushed the lead to 60-46 with a dunk with 8:53 to go. But the Sixers then got three straight baskets from Iguodala - including two dunks - which capped a 10-2 run to pull them within 62-56.

Johnson then hit a jumper to give Atlanta a 64-56 lead, and Williams hit four straight free throws. The second pair made it 68-57 with 1:15 to play in the third, and Johnson hit another jumper with 1.9 seconds left en route to a 70-57 advantage after three.

"We just had to stay poised," Johnson said. "We're a young team and we got guys who have never experienced a playoff atmosphere. The guys had to go up a notch or two. Tonight, everybody did that."

"We tried in the second half and they made shots towards the end of the shot clock in the second half," Cheeks said. "When they expand that energy like that in back-to-back nights, it going to take a lot out of us."

Iguodala scored 25 points for the Sixers.

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