for this game

Johnson stars as Hawks sting Hornets

Mar 10, 2009 - 2:45 AM ATLANTA (Ticker) -- Joe Johnson scored 30 points to help the Atlanta Hawks overcome a slow start Monday en route to a 89-79 triumph over the New Orleans Hornets.

Flip Murray added 14 points off the bench and Josh Smith collected 13 and 13 rebounds for Atlanta, which swept the season series with New Orleans, holding it to 79 points in both meetings.

"We got off to a slow start," Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said. "That could be because we tinkered with the lineup. I thought for the most part, once we got going, our defense picked up. You hold this team to 79 points, you've got to give credit to our defense."

Atlanta had lost six of eight, but followed Saturday's win over Detroit with another impressive victory against the Hornets despite the absence of Marvin Williams, who missed the game with an ailing back.

"It feels good, coming out and playing in a playoff atmosphere, playing against a good playoff team," Johnson said. "For us to respond the way we responded, with Marv going down, other guys stepping up, and that's how we have to play.

"I just wanted to be aggressive and make plays. I felt it at the start of the game. I knew I had to come out and set the tone."

Chris Paul had 24 points and 10 assists, David West added 16 and 20 rebounds for the Hornets, who lost for the first time since Tyson Chandler returned to the lineup.

"They kept the paint clogged a little bit," Paul said. "But the big thing tonight was defense. We couldn't get out in transition because we were taking the ball out of the net. That was the big problem."

The Hornets had won seven straight after a potential trade involving Chandler and Memphis fell through because the center failed a physical.

New Orleans jumped out to an 18-6 lead midway through the first quarter and led, 28-20, after one period before Atlanta stormed back.

"Turnovers were the big problem today," Paul said. "I had six myself. Take away those turnovers and we probably win the game."

Acie Law's 3-pointer put the Hawks in front, 38-36, with 4:05 left in the first half and they would not relinquish the lead from there.

"The second quarter was awful," New Orleans coach Byron Scott said. "I thought our guys did a terrible job in that period, giving up offensive rebounds and layups. Whatever we could do wrong offensively in the second quarter, we did. For our starters to play the minutes they're playing, we have to try to come out and win these games."

Paul pulled the Hornets to within three at 74-71 late in the first quarter, but the Hawks reeled off an 8-2 run to put the game away.

New Orleans also dropped the other meeting between the teams, 87-79, on November 5.