for this game

Johnson records triple-double as Hawks down Thunder

Dec 24, 2008 - 4:40 AM By Phil Foley PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

ATLANTA (Ticker) -- The Atlanta Hawks needed every last bit of a sensational performance from captain Joe Johnson to finally overtake the lowly Oklahoma City Thunder.

Johnson recorded his second career triple-double, collecting 20 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists to help the Hawks escape with a 99-88 victory over the Thunder on Tuesday at Philips Arena.

Johnson's rare triple-double was the first by a Hawk since the 2007-08 campaign and the first by the All-Star guard since February 1, 2006, vs. the Charlotte Bobcats.

"All I wanted was a win," Johnson said. "I didn't care how I got it. With a triple-double, it makes it a little bit sweeter."

Marvin Williams added 21 points and Josh Smith poured in 19 for Atlanta, which improved to 12-2 at home despite its uneven play here.

"It would have been better if we would have beaten Boston," Williams said of Atlanta's lone blemish thus far on their season-long eight game homestand. "We're in good shape now. Guys are working hard, guys are definitely aware of what we have to do here at home.

"We're just trying to take it one game at a time."

The Hawks allowed the Thunder to remain in this one for nearly 45 minutes before finally taking control down the stretch.

Oklahoma City moved to within four on Jeff Green's putback layup with 6:07 remaining to cut the deficit to 81-77 before Johnson connected on a pair of buckets to extend the lead to eight.

But the resilient Thunder tallied a pair of buckets - a putback jam from rookie Russell Westbrook and jumper from sophomore Kevin Durant to cut the deficit to 85-81 with 3:20 left on the clock.

Behind three assists from Johnson, Atlanta finally put away the game.

Johnson helped ignite a decisive 7-0 run, finding Smith on the right wing for a 3-pointer to extend the lead to seven before recording his 10th assist, dishing the ball to Mike Bibby along the right baseline to extend the lead to 90-81 with 1:37 remaining.

Johnson ended his night dishing the ball to Williams, who rained an eight-foot jumper to put Atlanta ahead by 11 with just under 59 seconds remaining.

"It's unbelievable, that's all I could say about," Williams said about Johnson's feat. "I was disappointed. I knew he had nine assists and I missed a wide-open three. Luckily, Mike Bibby hit the next jumper."

The win was the sixth in seven games for the Hawks, who improved to 5-1 on the homestand. However, Atlanta's play has been less than stellar here during their recent home spurt.

"We made it hard on ourselves a couple of nights," Williams said. "Thankfully, we came out with the win."

Atlanta has shown up to play against the NBA's elite, ending the Cavaliers' 11-game winning streak before taking the world champion Celtics to the brink before falling by three.

However, the club has struggled with lesser teams like Charlotte, Golden State and Oklahoma City, turning it on late before cruising to an eventual victory.

"We're still learning," second-year Hawks forward Al Horford said. "I think we're getting better. Hopefully, by the end of the year, we're going to be able to put away teams for good."

Johnson had a theory about Atlanta's struggles against the NBA's lesser teams.

"I think it's about us not respecting the team," Johnson said. "You look at their record and decide you can do whatever you want against them."

Oklahoma City, which is still looking for its fourth win of the season, led by as many as eight in the second quarter before Atlanta finished the frame with a 16-6 run to take a 45-43 lead into the break.

"We made it a fourth-quarter game," Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. "We just couldn't get any key stops down the stretch."

Durant scored 28 points and reserve Chris Wilcox netted 19 for Oklahoma City, which fell to 1-13 on the road this season.

"We played hard and fought hard, but in the end it didn't work out the way we wanted it to," Wilcox said. "We will get better and go from there. It's frustrating when you're not winning games, but we have to stick with what we have."