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Hawks make it six in a row

POSTED: December 31, 2008 12:00 a.m.
Tom Strattman/The Associated Press

Atlanta Hawks' Flip Murray (22) pulls down a rebound in front of Indiana Pacers' Marquis Daniels during the first half Tuesday in Indianapolis.

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INDIANAPOLIS — Joe Johnson’s stellar play is putting him in high company.

The Atlanta guard scored 12 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter, including the final five of the game, and the streaking Hawks beat the Indiana Pacers 110-104 on Tuesday night.

“What can you say? Joe has been huge for us this season,” Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. “I put him in the same class as LeBron, Kobe — he’s playing at that level. He’s making big plays for our team, he’s making players around him better.”

Johnson, who entered as the league’s ninth-leading scorer at 23.3 points per game, would like to be mentioned in the same sentence as LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and other NBA stars.

“I don’t get treated like that, but I feel like I’m up there in the elite,” Johnson said.

It was Johnson’s big fourth quarter that helped secure the victory for the Hawks, who have won six straight games and nine of 10.

After the Pacers cut Atlanta’s lead to one on Jarrett Jack’s three-point play with 1:36 left, Johnson drained a 3-pointer to make it 108-104. Danny Granger missed a layup on the Pacers’ ensuing possession, and Johnson hit two free throws to finish the scoring.

“He’s definitely our horse in the fourth quarter,” Hawks forward Josh Smith said. “Big shot after big shot he was hitting.”

Smith finished with 24 points, Mike Bibby scored 15 and Al Horford added 12 points and 14 rebounds for Atlanta.

Granger had 25 points, Jack 22 and Jeff Foster finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds for the Pacers, losers of four straight. Indiana has dropped eight home games this season by eight points or less.

“It seems like we’re one or two plays away. We just have to be able to play for an entire 48 minutes,” Jack said. “It’s like heartbreak hotel in here after the game.

“We’re playing good basketball, we’re a competitive ballclub, we’re in every game. Nobody can come in here and think this is an easy win.”

After a back-and-forth first half that featured 12 lead changes and nine ties, the Hawks took an 81-75 lead on Smith’s jumper late in the third quarter. The Pacers answered with consecutive 3s by Travis Diener to tie the score, but Atlanta went ahead 85-83 to end the period.

The Hawks took a 103-96 advantage after five straight points from Johnson with 4 minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Pacers then used an 8-2 run to get within a point.

“We’re putting ourselves in position to win against elite teams — that’s the good news,” Indiana coach Jim O’Brien said. “The bad news is we haven’t figured out how to win games down the stretch.”

The Hawks were playing their first road game since Dec. 12. They played eight consecutive home games and went 7-1 during that stretch.

“I think guys are committed,” Woodson said. “We’re really working hard on the defensive end, rebounding the basketball and we’re sharing it offensively. We’re coming up with big plays in the fourth quarter.”

Notes: Woodson returned to his hometown of Indianapolis. He attended nearby Broad Ripple High School and went to college at Indiana University. ... Pacers G Mike Dunleavy (right knee) missed the game and has yet to play this season. ... Granger completed a four-point play in the third quarter after being fouled on a 3-pointer. ... Atlanta’s Marvin Williams and Indiana’s Marquis Daniels each received technical fouls in the third. ... Atlanta snapped a four-game losing streak at Conseco Fieldhouse.



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