for this game

Horford leads Hawks past injury-riddled Bucks

Nov 27, 2008 - 4:04 AM By Phil Foley PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

ATLANTA (Ticker) -- The Atlanta Hawks know that if they want to position themselves for a longer postseason run, they will need to win at home. So far, so good.

Al Horford led five players in double-figures with 21 points and nine rebounds and Marvin Williams and Mike Bibby chimed in 18 each to help the Hawks to a 102-96 win over the shorthanded Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday.

Ronald Murray had 16 points, including a crucial 3-pointer down the stretch, and Joe Johnson rebounded from a poor outing with 15 points for Atlanta, which has won eight of nine at home dating to the 2007-08 playoffs.

"If you're talking about winning at a high level, you have to win at home," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said.

"Then you try to figure out the road when you get out there. We're playing .500 basketball on the road. If you continue to do that (and win at home), you're going to be playing at a higher level."

The young Hawks got their first taste of playoff basketball after an eight-year postseason drought last season and quickly became a storyline.

Picked by few to make much of a series of their first round matchup against World Champion Boston Celtics, the gritty Hawks became only the second No. 8 seed to take a No. 1 seed to seven games in the opening round of the playoffs.

A year older and wiser, Atlanta knows that it must improve on its 25-16 home record of a season ago if it wants advance past the first round.

"It's very important," Horford said. "If we want to be one of the elite teams, we have to get it done to get home-court advantage. That's one thing we realized when Boston had home court and won the East."

The Hawks are off to a good start, as they improved to 5-1 here. While it may not have been one of the prettiest of Atlanta's wins, the Hawks still got the job done.

"It was an up and down game," Johnson said. "The only thing that matters is that we won."

Atlanta looked sluggish facing a depleted Milwaukee team that was without stars Michael Redd (sprained right ankle) and Andrew Bogut (bruised left knee), allowing Milwaukee to stay in the game until the final two minutes.

Rookie Luc Richard Mbah a Moute cut the lead to 91-89 with a pair of free throws with 2:36 remaining in the game until the Hawks went to work as Atlanta scored eight of the next 10 points to put the game away.

Horford led the charge, converting on a three-point play with 1:48 remaining to extend the edge to five before Charlie Villanueva sunk a pair of free throws nine seconds later to cut the lead to 94-91.

Williams followed with a driving layup to reestablish a five point cushion before Murray put the game away, draining a 3-pointer from the right arc to give Atlanta a 99-91 lead with 53.7 seconds remaining.

"They were double-teaming Joe, so we were swinging the ball," Murray said. "I got the open corner. It's a shot they were giving up, it's the shot they wanted me to take. I just had to knock them down."

Teams used to be able to just double-team Johnson, knowing that he would likely shoot the ball.

Not this year, though.

"I tell guys when they double me, to be ready," Johnson said. "Guys get wide-open looks all night. That's the beauty of the game."

The win was the third in four games for the streaky Hawks, who began the season at 6-0 before losing four straight games.

Richard Jefferson scored 25 points and Ramon Sessions had 21 points, eight assists and grabbed seven rebounds for the Bucks, who have lost two straight.

"Even though we were close in this game, there is no consolation in losing," Jefferson said. "I felt like we were in position to win the game, but we just couldn't make the plays to get the win."

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