Johnson, Hawks stun Hornets on their home floorNov 6, 2008 - 4:51 AM NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- Joe Johnson and the Atlanta Hawks caught fire in the final quarter Wednesday, cutting the New Orleans Hornets from the ranks of the unbeaten with an 87-79 upset victory.
Johnson scored nine of his 24 points in the final frame and added seven rebounds as the Hawks remained unbeaten with their third straight win over a returning playoff team.
"I think our confidence is there, we had a great training camp and a great preseason. It has just transferred over the games into the regular season," Johnson said. "We just want to come night in and night out and give ourselves a chance to win. We are doing that now."
Despite a surprisingly lackluster performance, the Hornets took a five-point lead into the fourth but couldn't sustain it. Maurice Evans knocked down a 3-pointer and Josh Smith knocked down back-to-back jumpers as the Hawks erased the deficit with a 9-0 run to open up the period.
Flip Murray knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and Johnson added one of his own as the Hawks held off the Hornets down the stretch. Atlanta was 12-of-30 from the arc on the night.
"I just thought tonight that we were the aggressor from a defensive standpoint," Hawks head coach Mike Woodson said. "We stayed within our gameplan even when they made runs. We were able to counter their runs."
The Hornets entered the game as the highest-scoring team in the league, averaging 106.7 points in impressive wins over the Golden State Warriors, Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers. But despite the return of Peja Stojakovic and Tyson Chandler - both of whom were nursing sprained ankles - New Orleans was uncharacteristically flat.
"They just beat us, you know, in all aspects of the game," Hornets point guard Chris Paul said. "We came out flat and we thought we could just turn it on whenever we were ready. They out-hustled us, they out-scrapped us, and they were just a better team tonight."
It's nothing new this year for the Hawks' defense, which previously held the Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers to less than 90 points and made New Orleans its third victim in a row.
"These three games, our defense has been tremendous," Johnson said. "I can't ask for anything better than that. Our offense is going to come. We haven't been playing great offensively, but it's going to come. As long as we keep playing defense like this we'll be all right."
However, the Hornets took advantage of Atlanta's third-quarter lull to charge ahead as their shooters finally started hitting from the perimeter. Stojakovic buried consecutive 3-pointers and West knocked down a 19-footer to tie the game at 50-50. Late in the quarter, James Posey and Chris Paul connected from the arc, capping a 10-0 run to end the period.
Paul led New Orleans with 22 points and 11 assists and David West added 15 and seven boards.
Their hobbled teammates, however, didn't fare as well.
Stojakovic, who suffered the injury last Thursday against the Warriors and did not play Saturday against Cleveland, went just 3-of-13 from the field for eight points.
Chandler had missed each of the team's last two games and had a quiet return to the night, collecting nine, seven boards and three blocks.
"They played harder than we did," Hornets head coach Byron Scott said. "They were more aggressive, more physical. The M.O. on our team last year was 'beat them up,' and that's basically what they did. They took some liberties against us, and we took a step back because we accepted it instead of fighting fire with fire. Sometimes, you've just got to step up and be a man."
NEW ORLEANS 79 FINAL
Nov 5 10:18 PM
NEW ORLEANS 62 END, 3RD QTR
Nov 5 9:45 PM
NEW ORLEANS 40 HALFTIME
Nov 5 9:05 PM
NEW ORLEANS 16 END, 1ST QTR
Nov 5 8:33 PM
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