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Johnson's 21 third-quarter points lead Hawks to win

POSTED: March 26, 2008 5:01 a.m.

ATLANTA — Josh Smith was glad the Atlanta Hawks escaped Friday night unscathed.

The same couldn’t be said for downtown Atlanta, which was hit with a severe windstorm that tore a hole in the roof of the nearby Georgia Dome but apparently missed hitting Philips Arena.

The storm raged outside Philips during the fourth quarter of the Hawks’ 117-93 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. Because arena officials made no public announcement about potential danger, the game went on as scheduled.

"I just hope that nobody’s hurt," Smith said. "From what I know, it doesn’t seem like there was a problem here, but you never know."

About 30 minutes after the game ended, there were no immediate signs of fallen debris inside the building. Hawks spokesman Arthur Triche said the arena appeared to sustain no damage, even though small pieces from a ceiling tile had landed on the team’s practice court.

"From what I hear, we’re OK," Triche said. "They’re checking the roof right now in one corner, but everything looks fine so far."

The game itself was devoid of drama.

Joe Johnson scored 21 of his 28 points in the third quarter, and Mike Bibby handed out 14 assists to help the Hawks stop a two-game losing streak.

Smith added 25 points for Atlanta, which won for just the second time in eight games.

"My teammates got me involved," Smith said. "Mike Bibby is very unselfish. He found me. I ran the floor, got easy layups, knocked down some free throws. Basically, it was my half in the first half, and Joe Johnson’s half in the second half."

Tim Thomas and rookie Al Thornton each scored 18 points for Los Angeles, which has dropped two straight and 10 of 12.

The Clippers never came within single digits of the lead after Zaza Pachulia’s putback for Atlanta made it 30-19 late in the first quarter.

"I thought we did make a run, actually, to start the second half and we cut it down to 11," Los Angeles coach Mike Dunleavy said. "Then we made a mistake defensively, and Joe Johnson made a 3-pointer from the right wing and sent it back up."

Leading the Hawks in scoring for the seventh straight game, Johnson surpassed 20 points for the 39th time this season. He was 7-for-9 from the field in the third quarter, including 6-for-6 on 3-point attempts.

The margin of victory was a season high for Atlanta.

"It felt good," Johnson said. "I wish we had more of them. Having a chance to rest in the fourth quarter means you’ve had an easy game. We got off to a good start. Our defense was good, especially in the first half."

Atlanta had 46 rebounds, 11 more than the Clippers, who were without center Chris Kaman, the NBA’s third-leading rebounder and shot blocker. Kaman missed his third straight game with a lower back injury.

Dunleavy’s best player, forward Elton Brand, hasn’t played this season because of a torn Achilles’ tendon.

"Unfortunately, we don’t really have a low-post game to speak of with the guys we have out," Dunleavy said. "It’s tough when you don’t have that anchor."

With a 25-point lead at the end of the third quarter, Hawks coach Mike Woodson rested his starters, including Bibby, in the fourth. The ninth-year point guard finished with 14 points and helped the Hawks outscore the Clippers 41-20 in fast-break points.

"We needed a game like this to get our confidence up and to show ourselves that we could play that way," Bibby said. "Forty-one fast-break points, that’s a lot."

After Johnson hit a 3 that gave the Hawks a 20-point lead midway through the third, Thomas knew the Clippers were done.

"Again and again, they did a good job of running and getting transition points," Thomas said. "Most teams play aggressive at home, and that’s pretty much what it was. They ran on us every opportunity they got. They shot the ball well. When you get layups and points off turnovers, it’s easy."

Corey Maggette had 14 points for Los Angeles, but he was just 4-for-11 from the field.

Smush Parker, who signed as a free agent Wednesday after the Miami Heat waived him, drew a technical foul less than one minute after making his Clippers debut late in the third.Notes: The Clippers fell to 1-21 on the road when starting the fourth quarter with a deficit. ... Atlanta improved to 16-3 at home when beginning the fourth with a lead. ... Since trading for Bibby last month, the Hawks are 5-10.



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