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Hawks win 7th straight

POSTED: March 19, 2009 11:27 p.m.

ATLANTA — Hawks coach Mike Woodson winced every time Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry pulled up for jumpers in the fourth quarter.

"It just happened to go our way in the end," Woodson said. "Our defense helped as well, especially when we had to have it down the stretch."

Joe Johnson scored 24 points, and reserve Flip Murray had 19 in the Atlanta Hawks' seventh straight victory, 95-87 over the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night.

The Hawks moved four games ahead of the fifth-place Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference standings.

Dallas has lost three of four to drop 11/2 behind seventh-place Utah in the Western Conference, but the Mavericks are still 31/2 ahead of Phoenix for the eighth and final playoff spot.

Nowitzki scored 23 points and 12 rebounds, but he and Terry combined to go just 2-for-10 in the fourth quarter. The Mavs finished 6-for-31 on 3-point attempts, including a combined 0-for-8 in the final period from Terry and Jason Kidd.

"I think we got off to a good start in the first quarter," Kidd said. "We kind of forgot all of that in the second quarter, and that's when the game shifted in the Hawks' favor. From then on, it was an uphill battle. We were able to get some stops defensively, but we just couldn't make any 3s when we needed to."

Dallas was without two starters, swingman Josh Howard, who has a sore left ankle, and forward Erick Dampier, who has a swollen left knee and missed his first game of the season.

The Mavs also didn't have coach Rick Carlisle after the 2:46 mark of the second quarter. Official Derrick Stafford ejected him for arguing with 2:46 left in the second. Lead assistant Dwane Casey coached the rest of the game for Dallas.

Carlisle likely was also upset with the swing in momentum after watching Brandon Bass give the Mavs and eight-point with a dunk at the 9:40 mark of the second. Over the next 7:24, however, Dallas was outscored 21-6, including an 18-0 run that soon ended the coach's night.

"I thought Dirk was being held and pushed and got fouled repeatedly," Carlisle said. "I kept asking for a foul to be called, but it wasn't. I turned to the official and just got thrown out."

The Hawks have held each opponent under 100 points during the winning streak, and the average margin of victory has been 13. Atlanta's franchise record for consecutive victories in a homestand came Feb. 21-March 11, 1979, when the Hawks won eight straight.

"We came out and fought hard this whole homestand," Johnson said after his team improved to 27-7 at Philips Arena. "That was the main thing. Protect our home court and try to win every game. I thought our defense got us over the hump."

Atlanta padded the lead to 80-74 with 2:08 remaining when Al Horford tipped in Johnson's missed runner.

"I think we did a really good job of holding them off every time they made runs and finishing out the game," Horford said. "We just needed to really establish the inside presence; they were getting the offensive rebounds and stuff like that."

The Mavs never came closer than two after Bass hit a pair of free throws with 11:26 remaining. Murray's runner 5:14 later gave the Hawks an eight-point lead at 87-79.

Though his team needed two free throws apiece from Johnson and Mike Bibby to seal the victory, Woodson appreciated the outcome.

"The main quarter that counts is the fourth quarter, and we've been pretty good this year in the fourth quarter," Woodson said. "That's where the game was won tonight, I thought."

Notes: Atlanta improved to 35-9 this season when opponents score under 100. ... Dallas dropped to 2-19 on the road when entering the fourth quarter with a deficit. ... Against the Eastern Conference, the Mavs are now 8-5 away from Dallas. ... Nowitzki has scored at least 20 points in 12 straight games, the NBA's longest current streak. ... After visiting Cleveland on Saturday, the Hawks have a four-game homestand against Minnesota, San Antonio, Boston and the Los Angeles Lakers.



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