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Late 3 lifts Hawks

POSTED: January 4, 2009 12:12 a.m.

ATLANTA — Atlanta coach Mike Woodson needed a reversal of fortune after the Hawks’ loss the night before on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.

Fortunately for Woodson, Mike Bibby had the right touch after taking Joe Johnson’s pass beyond the arc.

"Mike stepped up and made a great shot," Woodson said. "Joe made a good find, and he was able to knock it down."

Bibby made a 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds remaining, and Josh Smith scored a season-high 29 points in the Hawks’ 103-100 victory over the Houston Rockets on Saturday night.

Johnson had a season-high 14 assists, the last when he drove from the perimeter and into the left side of the lane before passing to Bibby for the winner.

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

Flip Murray finished with 17 points for Atlanta, which snapped a three-game losing streak to Houston. The Hawks won their sixth straight at home, improving to 15-2 this season at Philips Arena. Overall, Atlanta has won six of seven.

The Hawks were eager to put an overtime loss behind them from the previous night at New Jersey, where Vince Carter’s long 3 ended a six-game winning streak.

"You give New Jersey a lot of credit for fighting back and making the plays they had to make, and then Vince hitting the game winner," Woodson said. "We have to learn from that game because we were in control and had a meltdown."

Reserve Carl Landry scored 18 points, and Yao Ming had 16 points and 15 rebounds to lead Houston, which has dropped two straight and five of seven. Aaron Brooks missed a 3 from the left corner at the buzzer that would’ve forced overtime.

Von Wafer had 17 points for Houston, and Brent Barry added 16.

Smith wasn’t exactly active on the boards, but his two rebounds were nevertheless important.

The first came with 3:55 remaining as he rebounded and dunked seamlessly over Yao on a missed 3 by Bibby. After that play gave the Hawks a 98-96 lead, Smith pushed the lead to four on fast-break dunk, and he rebounded Brooks’ missed runner at the 3:08 mark.

"I wanted to try to crash the boards," Smith said. "I only had two rebounds, but they were the two biggest rebounds in the game."

Added Wafer, who watched in vain when Smith tipped a Rafer Alston’s runner to Bibby with 20.5 seconds remaining, "They’re a tough team to defend because they are so athletic and talented. Josh Smith had a great game tonight. He kept the Hawks alive with big shots and great energy."

Rockets guard Tracy McGrady, who had averaged 29.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists over his last 10 games in Atlanta, was held out because of a sore left knee.

Ron Artest and Shane Battier also were injured and unable to play.

"We played hard," Houston coach Rick Adelman said. "We had opportunities. That’s the effort we have to have. It’s a shame. I feel bad for our guys."

Johnson was eager to make up for two straight turnovers in the final minute. When he dribbled into the lane and Bibby’s defender left the Atlanta point guard open, Johnson had his chance.

"That was instinct," Johnson said. "When I came off the pick, I thought about shooting it right away but I decided to wait because it would have given them at least 3 seconds on the clock and I didn’t really want to give them a lot of time. so when I came up I kind of hesitated and saw Mike out of the corner of my eye. His man was looking dead at me so I just whipped it to him."Notes: Hawks F Marvin Williams (left shoulder) wasn’t in uniform and was replaced in the starting lineup by Mo Evans. ... Battier (left foot) missed his third straight game. ... The Hawks improved to 48-20 at home against the Rockets.



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