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Hawks continue home dominance

Atlanta wins sixth straight

POSTED: March 18, 2009 12:38 a.m.

ATLANTA — For just a few seconds, it appeared as if Al Horford might be seriously injured when he went down after a hard foul. Instead, he got up and made his free throws.

The Atlanta Hawks weren't going to let anything keep them down, either.

Horford had 23 points and 12 rebounds, and Josh Smith finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds in the Atlanta's sixth straight victory, 119-97 over the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night.

"We didn't want to lose to a team like Sacramento," Smith said. "No offense to them, but (after) beating New Orleans and Utah, teams who are on top of the Western Conference, we didn't want to let ourselves down by losing this game. We're just trying to separate ourselves from the pack. Miami's right on our heels still."

Improving to 26-7 at home, the Hawks are 40-28 overall, their highest win total since 1997-98. They moved three games ahead of fifth-place Miami in the Eastern Conference.

Kevin Martin scored 31 for Sacramento, which fell to 0-27 against teams from the East and extended its losing streak to four. The Kings have dropped four straight and 13 of 14 away from California, where they are 4-30 this season.

"We stopped playing together tonight, and this is happens when you play selfish basketball," Martin said. "I think we all learned a little lesson tonight. They were aggressive from the start. Al Horford is a load in the paint, and Josh Smith is one of the most athletic guys in the league, so that made it tough for us."

Horford overcame a hard fall on his tailbone and right hip after Spencer Hawes fouled him with 10:47 remaining. Despite lying face-down on the floor for a few seconds and seeming to shiver, Horford arose and made his free throws.

He stayed in the game until the 6:03 mark, when coach Mike Woodson sent in Zaza Pachulia.

"It's OK right now," he said. "I'm going to feel it tomorrow."

Atlanta was eliminated by eventual champion Boston in the first round last year. Though it marked the end of a nine-year postseason drought for the Hawks, Horford was accustomed to bigger goals after helping Florida win national titles as a sophomore in 2006 and as a junior in '07.

Even Atlanta's goal of winning 50 regular-season games isn't as important to Horford as getting home-court advantage for at least the first round of the playoffs.

"I think the most important thing is getting the fourth spot, securing it," he said. "If 50 wins comes along with that, that'd be great."

Joe Johnson finished with 20 points for the Hawks, ending his four-game stretch of 30 or more after missing his first eight attempts from the field and finishing 8-for-21.

All of Atlanta's six straight wins have come at home. The seven-game homestand ends after Dallas visits on Thursday, but after playing Saturday at Cleveland, the Hawks will have four more at Philips Arena against Minnesota, San Antonio, Boston and the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Kings' starting lineup of Andres Nocioni, Jason Thompson, Hawes, Martin and Beno Udrih was their 22nd this season. Sacramento's biggest lead was 10 points midway through the first, but Atlanta never trailed after Pachulia's layup midway through the second.

"We had a good first quarter, holding our own and then in the second quarter, we got relaxed and gave up a 42-point quarter," interim Kings coach Kenny Natt said. "We still showed some fight coming back in the second half. There were some opportunities there, but we just got sloppy and not taking care of the basketball. We took poor shots, sold ourselves out on the perimeter, and they were getting out and running on us."



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