for this game

Bibby, Hawks rout Raptors, remain unbeaten

Nov 8, 2008 - 4:23 AM By Phil Foley PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

ATLANTA (Ticker) -- Mike Bibby and Joe Johnson have the Atlanta Hawks out to their best start this century.

Bibby had 19 points and 12 assists while Johnson added 17 points to lead the undefeated Hawks to a 110-92 rout of the Toronto Raptors on Friday night at Philips Arena.

Maurice Evans scored 16 points and Ronald Murray poured in 15 for Atlanta, which improved to 4-0 to start the season for the first time since winning its first 11 games to start the 1997-98 campaign.

"This is the first time I've been 4-0," said Hawks forward Marvin Williams, who was 11 years old the last time the team started the season with as many wins. "It's exciting. My (friend) was making fun of me last night that it was the first time I was 3-0. We're not worried about what other people said (about this team)."

The Hawks seemingly have built upon the lessons they learned while taking the eventual world champion Boston Celtics to seven games in the Eastern Conference first round last year, growing up right in front of coach Mike Woodson.

The club once known for porous defense and poor shot selection entered this one as one of four unbeaten teams in the NBA, while leading the league in defense.

It slayed the reigning Southeast Division champion Orlando Magic in its season opener, rallying from 23 points down to defeat the Philadelphia 76ers in its first home game before besting the elite New Orleans Hornets in the "Big Easy" on Wednesday.

Atlanta sure made things look easy against the Raptors.

"There wasn't anything we could do tonight to stop Atlanta," Toronto coach Sam Mitchell said. "We couldn't guard them tonight. We scored enough points, but we just couldn't get any stops."

The Hawks, who never trailed, lead by as many as eight in the first quarter and took a 31-26 lead into the second behind seven points from Bibby and six from Josh Smith, who left the game in the waning seconds of the first quarter with a sprained left ankle.

Despite the adversity of missing its second-best scorer and big men Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia in foul trouble, Atlanta turned to Bibby, Johnson and its bench and never looked back.

"We didn't miss a beat," Johnson said. "It's one of those times where our offense was clicking. We wanted to continue to keep playing hard on defense, and the offense was going to come."

Bibby and Johnson ignited a 15-3 run midway through the second quarter as the 3-pointers started falling at Philips Arena.

The 6-2 Bibby led the charge by draining a trio of 3-pointers before Johnson capped the run by connecting on a free throw to give the Hawks a 57-41 lead with 2:56 remaining.

"It was just one of those nights," Johnson said. "Pretty much everything was clicking. (Bibby) had the hot hand in the first half. I tried to find him."

Things sure have been going right for the Hawks these days.

Picked by many to be not much better than the 37-win team that squeaked into the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference last season, Atlanta has been one of the league's biggest surprises.

But don't tell that to the Hawks, who are the last undefeated team standing in the rugged Eastern Conference after the Detroit Pistons lost to the New Jersey Nets on Friday.

"We're not worried about the critics," Bibby said. "No one recognizes us still. We're going to sneak up on people. No one expects us to win any games yet. We're going to keep making plays. No one expects us to be like that, other than us."

And it seems like everything is bouncing the right way for one of the league's forgotten clubs.

Bibby lofted a 27-foot shot from behind the arc during Atlanta's hallmark 15-3 run. The ball, which in years past would have been destined to bounce off of the rim and over the glass, took a high bounce off of the iron and found nothing but net.

"That means things are going good for you," Bibby said of the fortuitous bounce. "I'll take those every night."

Not even solid games from perennial Hawks killers Chris Bosh, who poured in 26 points, and Jermaine O'Neal - who added 17 - would rattle the team from Atlanta.

"It was one of those games, from the beginning to the end, it was just a bad game," Raptors forward Anthony Parker said. "We just didn't get the job done and, every time we didn't, they made us pay."

The Hawks, who led by as many as 27 in this one, shot a blistering 54 percent (44-of-81) from the field and 60 percent (12-of-20) from behind the 3-point line.

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