for this game

Bibby, Hawks sink Rockets just before buzzer

Jan 4, 2009 - 4:22 AM By Phil Foley PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

ATLANTA (Ticker) -- Josh Smith soared through the air with the greatest of ease, Mike Bibby drained a big 3-pointer and the Atlanta Hawks continued their winning ways at home.

Bibby nailed the game-winning 3-pointer and Smith tallied a season-high 29 points - including two highlight-reel dunks in crunch time - propelling the Hawks to a 103-100 victory over the depleted Houston Rockets on Saturday night at Philips Arena.

Reserve Ronald Murray added 17 points and Joe Johnson had 14 and a season-high 14 assists for Atlanta, which improved to 15-2 at home this season.

"Bibby didn't let us down," Smith said of his teammate's game-winner. "He gave us a little prime time dance afterwards. It's good to have a guy like that on our team, where he's made big shots like that in the past. He was able to get us the win tonight."

Carl Landry scored 18 points and Von Wafer added 17 for the Rockets, who played without Tracy McGrady (sore left knee), Ron Artest (sore right ankle) and Shane Battier (left foot).

"We played hard," Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. "Everybody laid it out there tonight. We had an opportunity to win this. I have to give our guys credit for the effort."

Houston had a chance to take the lead after Rafer Alston stole the ball from Johnson, but Smith altered Alston's shot and caused him to miss a layup on the other end of the floor.

The Rockets had a foul to give but failed to foul Johnson, who ran the floor.

The two-time All-Star saw Bibby's man look toward him and uncorked a perfect pass to Atlanta's point guard. With the seams of the basketball perfectly in place, Bibby drained a 3-point attempt from behind the right arc with 1.5 seconds remaining to give Atlanta the win.

"It was a good pass, I was waiting for it," Bibby said. "He seamed it up nicely. If I caught it, I was going to shoot it."

Aaron Brooks had a chance to tie it with a 3-pointer from in front of the Hawks' bench as time expired, but the shot clinked off the rim.

"We believed to the last second that we could win this game," Houston center Yao Ming said.

"We can live with the last shot that Aaron took, even though it didn't go in. It was a good look, and that's just how it happens sometimes in this league."

Adelman was lamenting his team's decision not to foul Johnson.

"When Joe Johnson has the ball, you have to grab him and foul him," Adelman said. "You can't risk letting him get a shot off."

Houston opened up a 96-93 lead with 4:42 remaining on a three-point play by Alston before the Hawks embarked on a 7-0 run to take a four-point lead.

Murray ignited the spurt, draining a 3-pointer with 4:31 left to tie the game at 96-96 before Smith took control.

Bibby missed on a 3-pointer, but Smith soared down the lane, dunking home the rebound to give Atlanta a two-point lead with 3:54 remaining before capping the run with a monstrous reverse dunk on the fast break to give Atlanta a 100-96 lead 21 seconds later.

"I wanted to try to crash the bucket," Smith said of his putback dunk. "I only had two rebounds. They were two biggest rebounds in the game. I wanted to help out on that end."

Luis Scola cut the Rockets' deficit back to two before Wafer tied the contest with a layup with 52 seconds remaining.

The victory avenged a brutal defeat for the Hawks on Friday in New Jersey where Atlanta blew a 20-point halftime lead before falling in overtime on Vince Carter's 3-pointer. What a difference a day makes.

"I know how (Houston) felt (Saturday) when I walked off (the court Friday)," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "Bibby stepped up and made a great shot."

Yao posted 16 points in the first half but was held scoreless in the third and fourth quarters.

"I didn't play very well in the second half," said Yao, who mustered just one shot over the final two frames. "The Hawks started fronting me on defense, which made it tougher for me to get the ball."

Atlanta won its sixth straight at home by shooting 74 percent (14-of-19) from the field in the second quarter to erase a five-point, first-quarter deficit and take a 54-46 lead into the break.

Smith caught fire in the first half, scoring 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the field to aid Atlanta's cause.

But the Rockets scored 12 of the first 16 points after the break to tie the contest at 58-58 on Brent Barry's 3-pointer with 7:21 remaining in the third quarter.

Atlanta played without starting forward Marvin Williams, who missed the contest with a sore left shoulder. He will have an MRI on Monday and is listed as day-to-day.