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Hawks win, take over eighth place

POSTED: March 29, 2008 5:00 a.m.

WASHINGTON — Nearly a decade of playoff futility is enough for the Atlanta Hawks.

Recent Hawks addition Mike Bibby scored 23 points, and Atlanta beat the Washington Wizards 105-96 to move one-half game ahead of idle New Jersey for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

The Hawks last made the playoffs during the lockout shortened 1998-99 season, the longest postseason drought in the NBA.

"I think our chances are good. It's in our hands," said Bibby, who was acquired on Feb. 16 from Sacramento and has played in 51 playoff games. "You never really want to leave it up to anybody else to try to get into the playoffs. I've been there before to where I've waited to see how other teams finish to see if you're going to make it not, so I want to impress upon these guys that it's there for us to take and we've got to go do it."

Mike Woodson has been impressed with his team.

"I thought tonight's game was played with playoff intensity," Woodson said. "We control our own destiny. We have a bunch of Eastern Conference teams that we've got to play — teams like Chicago, Indiana, Milwaukee, New Jersey.

"All I'm telling my guys is to concentrate and take it one game at a time and play it as if it's your last game," he added.

He thinks that a big part of the difference has been the addition of Bibby.

"He's starting to get comfortable with our players, and they're starting to get comfortable with him," Woodson said. "He can make a shot — and if you're open — he will give you the ball. We haven't had that since I have been here as coach."

Joe Johnson scored 18 points and had 10 assists. The Hawks, who shot 55.4 percent, also were helped by Josh Smith, who had 17 points, Josh Childress with 16 points and rookie center Al Horford, who added 12 points, 15 rebounds and a career-high six assists.

"To make the playoffs, every game we've got to focus in and know what's going on," Johnson said.

Washington, which had its three-game winning streak end, had won 12 of 15 games against the Hawks. The Wizards fell to 33-33.

Antawn Jamison led the Wizards with 25 points. Brendan Haywood had 16 points — none in the final 23:20.

"We kind of went through the motions," Jamison said.

The Hawks never trailed in the first half, shooting 58.3 percent, but Haywood made two free throws at the start of the second to give the Wizards their first lead.

Atlanta took a 58-57 lead on Marvin Williams' jump shot with 10:30 remaining in the third quarter, and despite having to play much of the second half without Smith, who sat with four fouls, they held the lead for the rest of the quarter and led 84-77 after three.

Childress replaced Smith and scored 16 points. His 3-pointer with 10:09 to play gave Atlanta its largest lead — 87-77.

Wizards coach Eddie Jordan didn't fault his team's effort, but said Caron Butler, who missed 16 games with a strained hip flexor and Antonio Daniels, who's been starting at point guard in place of Gilbert Arenas, have sore left wrists, which are sorely hampering their games.

"We've got some serious beat-up guys on our team," Jordan said.

He also said he was planning to implement a curfew for this week's two-game trip to Orlando and Miami.

"We've never had curfews before," Jordan said. "We're going to put guys in the position to be professional — to get ready for a business trip — not a Florida pleasure trip."

Notes: Washington G Arenas, who had left knee surgery on March 21, had an MRI on Monday and will increase the intensity of his workouts in an attempt to hasten his return. ... Wizards C Haywood returned after missing one game with a strain of his left patella tendon. ... Washington F Jamison was named the Eastern Conference's Player of the Week. ... Atlanta has won twice in a row on the road — for just the second time this season.



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