for this game

Third quarter sparks Hawks past Grizzlies

Dec 9, 2007 - 3:23 AM By Phil Foley PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

ATLANTA (Ticker) - The Atlanta Hawks finally put together a solid third quarter. It came as no surprise that they won the game too.

Josh Smith tallied 25 points and Marvin Williams added 17 and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the Hawks to an 86-78 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday.

Joe Johnson scored 17 points and rookie Al Horford added eight and 14 rebounds for Atlanta, which has won six of its last nine games.

"It feels good," Johnson said. "We've been playing real good lately. The only thing (that hurt us) was the third quarter. It felt great knowing we had the win secured (in the final minutes)."

The third quarter had been the soft point of late for the Hawks, who were outscored by 36 points in the period over their last two games. Atlanta matched a franchise-low for the third by scoring eight in Thursday's contest against the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves.

Cognizant of their second-half struggles, the Hawks paid special attention to their warmup routine at the half, immediately coming to the floor after the halftime festivities ended at Philips Arena.

The extra practice paid off.

The Hawks opened the quarter with a high-octane highlight show, embarking on a 13-5 run to put the game away.

"It's something we've been harping on," Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said. "As a coaching staff, we went back and evaluated our last eight games and how we've come out to start the third quarter. We got them out of the locker room a little earlier than we have in the past. They were able to get out and warm up a lot quicker, and it was a nice carryover into the third quarter."

Atlanta matched its eight-point point total against the Timberwolves at the 8:45 mark on a sensational alley-oop dunk by Williams. On the play, Williams grabbed Damon Stoudamire's running layup and fed Johnson, who dished the ball to Williams in the paint for the slam and a 47-33 lead.

"He gave it to me and I gave it back to him, and we did it again," Williams said. "I thought he was going to take the layup, but he's a great passer so he just threw it up there and I was able to finish. It feels great. Our starters played real hard. Our bench played extremely hard and we were able to execute our scouting report."

Three offensive possessions later, Anthony Johnson stole Rudy Gay's inbound pass and fed Smith for the running layup on a three-point play with 7:44 remaining to give Atlanta a 52-33 lead.

"I was just happy we were able to create spurts like we were in the third quarter," Smith said. "We came out more focused and tried to get the team out as quickly as possible. We were just trying to get warmed up early to get our bodies back moving."

With the victory, the Hawks (9-10) forged a second-place tie with the Washington Wizards in the weak South Division and moved to within one game of the .500 mark for the first time since November 14.

"I've been saying all along, if we can play .500 basketball, we can make the playoffs," said Woodson, whose club's eight-year playoff drought is the longest active streak in the NBA. "It's a marathon. We have to stay the course."

Atlanta started the game on fire, connecting on 50 percent (11-for-22) of its shots in the first quarter to build a 25-10 lead.

Memphis came out flat in the first quarter after suffering a 118-116 loss in overtime to the New Orleans Hornets on Friday, shooting just 22 percent (4-for-18) from the field en route to matching its lowest offensive output in a quarter this season.

The Grizzlies responded in the second quarter, whittling Atlanta's lead to four with a 16-5 run to start the period behind sophomore sensation Gay.

Gay, who leads all second-year scorers with an average of 18.7 points entering Saturday, scored 10 of his team-high 17 points in the run, capping the scoring with a put-back dunk of Kyle Lowry's miss with 6:30 remaining in the second to cut the lead to 30-26.

But the Grizzlies got no closer, as the Hawks scored nine of the quarter's final 11 points to take a 39-28 lead into the break.

"We were running on fumes all night," Grizzlies coach Marc Iavaroni said. "It was real evident that we didn't have any legs by the way we were shooting the ball tonight."

Memphis, which entered sixth in the league in scoring at 104.5 points per game, was held to a season-low 78 points and finished just 1-for-15 from behind the arc.

"We just couldn't knock down any shots tonight," Hakim Warrick said. "Even when you're shooting poorly, you have to be aggressive and attack the basket. Tonight the Hawks had a little bit more energy."

"When you shoot 1-for-15 from 3-point range, it will put a strain on you," Iavaroni said. "I think the Hawks were a little more aggressive than us tonight. They had a little bit more juice than we did."

Lowry added 15 points and Warrick scored 14 for the Grizzlies, who have lost four straight.

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