Knicks
Hawks
95 - 98 Final
  for this game

Johnson, Hawks pull out late win over Knicks

Dec 6, 2008 - 4:48 AM By Phil Foley PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

ATLANTA (Ticker) -- Josh Smith had a 23rd birthday to remember. His coach would rather forget about this day, even though his team won the game.

Smith tallied 16 points, eight rebounds and five assists and Marvin Williams added 18 points, leading the Hawks to an ugly 98-95 victory over the lowly New York Knicks on Friday night at Philips Arena.

Joe Johnson added 16 points and Horford scored 14 for Atlanta, which finished with seven players in double figures.

"A win is a win," Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said. "We did what we had to do down the stretch. But it was what we did to get to the stretch. We played their game and that was a problem."

The Hawks seemingly had this one secured, leading by 10 three minutes into the fourth quarter and were poised to put away the game.

But Atlanta fell into the same old habits often seen during the team's barren eight-year playoff drought that finally ended last season - taking quick jumpers instead of penetrating into the lane with New York mired in foul trouble.

The jumpers didn't fall. The Knicks' shots did.

The lead shrunk and Atlanta suddenly found itself in a ballgame.

"We got into what they wanted to do, shooting jump shots," Smith said.

Joe Johnson drained a jumper to give Atlanta a three-point lead with 93 seconds remaining before both teams fell silent from the field.

New York had a chance to tie it on the game's final possession, but Knicks forward Al Harrington inexplicably passed up on a wide-open 3-pointer, dished to Chris Duhon, who did the same before feeding Harrington again - but this time, it was too late.

The horn sounded as Harrington's desperation 3-pointer was partially blocked by two Hawks, leaving a pair of Knicks with a few regrets.

"I think if I had another opportunity with the last shot, I probably would have shot it instead of passed it," Harrington admitted. "In my mind, I felt two guys were running at me, so I tried to drive and create a shot for my teammates. I knew that we needed a 3-pointer, so that's why I threw it to Chris."

"I probably should have taken the shot the first time," Duhon said. "He kind of surprised me when he passed it back. I just need to be ready to shoot in that situation in the future."

Atlanta escaped to improve to 7-1 at home this season and 12-5 on the season.

"I'm happy," Horford said. "Getting a win, I'm always happy. You want to blow out a team by 20, but at the end of the game, we're taking care of home court."

Even though the Hawks are out to their best start since the 1997-98 campaign when the club was 15-3 in its first 18 games, Woodson was not too pleased with his team's performance in this one.

"We just can't keep putting ourselves in this position, when you have a comfortable lead," Woodson said. "Coming down the stretch we were in the penalty and didn't get to the free-throw line. The importance of winning basketball games is playing the right way."

The win capped a decent birthday performance for Smith, who entered the game three blocks away from becoming the youngest player in the NBA to collect his 800th block, potentially eclipsing the mark of Shaquille O'Neal, which was set when the big man was 24 years and nine days old.

But he won't be able to unwrap that present just yet.

Smith finished with two swats and stands at 799 career blocks. He was happy for another gift, however.

"Us winning," Smith said of the best present he received all day. "Us being above .500 into December. I'll celebrate (my birthday) with the fellas (on the team plane to Dallas)."

The Hawks started out the fourth with a 10-3 run to take a 84-74 lead after reserve center Zaza Pachulia split a pair of free throws with 9:09 remaining.

But the Knicks fought back with an 11-3 spurt midway through the quarter behind six points from Duhon. Quentin Richardson capped the run with a long 3-pointer, cutting Atlanta's lead to 91-90 with 3:34 remaining.

Horford drove down the lane on the ensuing possession, only to be taken down hard by former Florida teammate David Lee.

The two-time national champion Gator Horford nailed both free throws to re-establish a three-point cushion before Harrington drained a bucket to cut the lead to 93-92 with 2:59 remaining.

Mike Bibby and Richardson traded 3-pointers before Johnson capped the scoring with a jumper to give the Hawks their final margin of victory.

"A win is a win," Johnson said. "But I'm definitely disappointed - especially because we should have won by at least 20 (points)."

Harrington scored 27 points and Lee and Wilson Chandler added 15 each for the struggling Knicks, who have lost three straight and five of their last six overall.