88 - 95 Final
  for this game

Johnson helps Hawks complete comeback against Sixers

Nov 2, 2008 - 2:38 AM By Phil Foley PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

ATLANTA (Ticker) -- Joe Johnson looked into the eyes of a frenzied sold-out Philips Arena crowd late in the fourth quarter and knew exactly what he had to do win the game for the Atlanta Hawks.

Johnson ignited another improbable home comeback with 35 points and Smith shook off a poor shooting night by netting 12 in the fourth quarter to lead the Hawks to a 95-88 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday.

Mike Bibby scored 19 points and Al Horford added nine and seven rebounds as Atlanta erased a 23-point second-quarter deficit in its home opener Saturday night.

"We just didn't want to let the fans down in the home opener," Smith said. "It shows the grit and maturity of this team."

Philips Arena rocked at the end of last season as the hometown Hawks overcame three large deficits at home en route to becoming only the second No. 8 seed in NBA history to take the top seed to seven games in the first round of the playoffs, when they did so against the world champion Boston Celtics last year.

The arena, once known for its empty seats and the squeak of sneakers on the court from 75 feet away, was rocking again with four minutes remaining when Hawks coach Mike Woodson called timeout.

With the Hawks whittling a huge first-half deficit to two, Atlanta's All-Star Johnson peered up into the raucous crowd standing on its feet, then turned and talked to Bibby.

"If you look around and see these people, turning it on, that's who we have to pull it out for," Johnson said, recanting the conversation with his teammate.

Atlanta's All-Star went out and did just that.

Johnson tied the contest, 84-84, on the ensuing possession before Elton Brand gave the Sixers their last lead with 3:40 remaining.

Two free throws and an uncharacteristic fast-break dunk by Johnson from an outlet pass by Smith later, Atlanta had its first lead. After the two teams traded buckets, the 27-year-old Johnson had the ball at the top of the arc.

Brand fell down. Andre Miller closed in -- but not quite quickly enough. With less than a second left on the shot clock, Johnson launched a 32-foot fadeaway 3-pointer from well behind the arc.

Swish. The comeback was complete. The Hawks took a 93-88 lead with 11 seconds remaining.

"I had no intention of passing," Johnson said. "I was looking straight at the bucket."

"He's like a video game," incredulous Sixers forward Thaddeus Young said. "Some of the shots he makes are just crazy."

What a difference a half made.

"I don't know what to tell you," Johnson said of the comeback. "I'm losing years off of my age. But when you pull the win out, it's fun."

The Hawks looked lost before halftime - chucking up shots without having the offense set in the post, not boxing out on the other end as the Sixers built a 44-21 lead on Andre Iguodala's 19-footer with 7:23 remaining in the second quarter.

Young, a former Georgia Tech standout, led the charge, posting 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting in the first quarter. But the gritty Hawks had yet another comeback in them at the "Highlight Factory."

"We were just moving the ball," Bibby said. "We started hitting shots. The shots we weren't making (in the first half) were going in. We just kept playing, and shots started falling."

Keyed by Smith and Johnson, Atlanta overcame a nine-point deficit, outscoring Philadelphia by 16 in the final quarter for the improbable victory.

"Heck of a game," Woodson said. "The fans were fantastic again tonight. And our guys reacted off of it. We were down early. I thought we were really playing too fast early, and they made shots. You have to give them credit."

Smith, who was a miserable 1-of-9 in the first 36 minutes of the contest, was on fire in the fourth, scoring 10 points during a 12-5 run to start the quarter, including a 3-pointer from Johnson with 7:43 remaining to cut Philadelphia's lead to 80-78.

"I just had to keep fighting," Smith said. "I couldn't let my team down."

Atlanta, which was outrebounded, 30-18, in the first half, finally found its groove midway in the second quarter.

Johnson led the charge, pouring in 12 second-quarter points, including a pretty slashing layup past two Philadelphia defenders with 9:37 remaining in the quarter to cut the deficit to 36-21.

"You have to give the Hawks credit, they enforced their will on us," Brand said. "It started in the second quarter and carried into the second half. We just couldn't get any stops. My hats off to the Hawks for not giving up, and I'm disappointed that we didn't finish this game off."

Young scored 22 points and Brand poured in 17 and added 16 rebounds for Philadelphia, which fell to 1-2 on the season.

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