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Hawks get to 20 wins before New Year's
Atlanta on five-game winning streak
Denver Nuggets’ Carmelo Anthony, right, is defneded by Atlanta Hawks’ Josh Smith in the first quarter on Monday at Philips Arena in Atlanta. - photo by John Bazemore | The Associated Press

ATLANTA Joe Johnson scored 25 points and the Atlanta Hawks beat the Denver Nuggets 109-91 on Monday night to close out an important homestand with a long-awaited milestone.

Atlanta completed an eight-game homestand, its longest of the season, with a 7-1 record, including five straight wins. Its only loss was to Boston.

The Hawks (20-10) reached 20 wins before New Year’s Day for the first time since the 1987-88 season. Atlanta plays Tuesday at Indiana in its final game of 2008.

Seven teams won 20 games this season before the Hawks. Even relatively modest accomplishments are noteworthy in Atlanta, which won only 13 games in the 2004-05 season and made the playoffs last season for the first time since 1999.

The Hawks made 12 of 23 3-point attempts, including 5-of-6 by Mike Bibby, who had 20 points and nine assists.

Al Horford had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Flip Murray added 13 points.

Kenyon Martin led Denver with 19 points.

Carmelo Anthony, who scored 32 points in the Nuggets’ 117-110 victory at the New York Knicks on Sunday, had only half that total with 16 points on 4-for-17 shooting from the field.

Chauncey Billups and J.R. Smith each added 11 points for Denver.

There were 16 lead changes, but Denver’s last lead was 64-63 early in the second half. Atlanta stretched its lead to double digits for the first time at 81-71 when Maurice Evans opened the fourth period with a 3-pointer.

The Nuggets, playing their second road game in two days, trailed only 54-53 at halftime but faded in the second half, when they were outscored 55-38.

Atlanta’s winning streak is its longest since opening the season with six straight wins.Notes: The Hawks took a 44-27 advantage in rebounds. Josh Smith had 10 points and eight rebounds. ... Denver coach George Karl was denied his 900th career win. ... Nene was held out with a stiff neck following a fall in Sunday’s win at New York. He was not in uniform and Karl said he didn’t know when the forward-center would return.

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