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Johnson's 41 leads Hawks to win
Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith (5) goes to the net against Chicago Bulls forward Tyrus Thomas (24) during the first quarter Saturday at Philips Arena in Atlanta. - photo by Gregory Smith

ATLANTA — After holding 14 of their last 15 opponents under 100 points, the Atlanta Hawks expected a low-scoring game against Chicago.

When that plan failed, the Hawks seemed to enjoy a rare opportunity to change their style.

Joe Johnson scored a season-high 41 points, Josh Smith also set a season high with 24, and the Hawks withstood Ben Gordon’s 3-point barrage to beat the Bulls 129-117 on Saturday night.

The Bulls lost despite shooting 54.4 percent from the field and matching their scoring high for the season only one night after a 90-77 loss at Miami.

“The way they were on tonight, you have to run it right back at them, and that was what we were doing,” said Hawks center Al Horford.

“We’ve been a pretty good defensive team. We just had to adjust and play their style of game, and we got it done.”

Johnson said he realized he was close to his career high of 42 points.

“The guys were saying I should keep the ball and go to the free-throw line,” Johnson said of the last minute, when the Bulls had to foul. “But all that mattered to me was that we won the game.”

The Hawks, who average only 96 points, topped their previous season best by 10 points.

“It shows we are real versatile,” Smith said.
“It doesn’t matter whether we’re playing a fast style of basketball or slow, just as long as we win.”

Hawks coach Mike Woodson normally complains when his team gives up 100 points. On this night, he followed his team’s lead and focused on his team’s scoring.

“Our offense was solid, probably the best it has been all season,” Woodson said.

The Hawks have won four in a row and seven of eight.

Gordon scored 33 points and was 6-of-8 behind the arc to pass Scottie Pippen and become the Bulls’ career leader in 3-pointers. Rookie Derrick Rose added a career-high 27 points.

Even with Gordon and Rose combining for 60 points, the Bulls were not close at the end after allowing the Hawks to make 55.7 percent of their shots from the field.

“They’re one of the better teams in the East right now and there’s a reason why,” said Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro. “I mean, it’s hard to stop Joe, and the rest of the guys are very athletic. We couldn’t slow them down when we needed to.”

The Hawks outscored the Bulls 56-38 in the paint.

The Bulls, who fell to 3-14 away from Chicago, have lost three straight and four of five.

“It’s definitely not the effort,” Del Negro said. “We just need to play a little smarter.”

Horford, who had 27 points and 17 rebounds in Atlanta’s 113-108 win at Chicago on Nov. 11, had 10 points and 10 rebounds as the Hawks took a 38-28 advantage in rebounds.

“They were all over the glass on us,” Del Negro said.

The Hawks led only 116-112 before Marvin Williams’ three-point play with 1:44 left. Williams scored on a baseline drive and made the free throw after Larry Hughes’ foul. Smith then grabbed the offensive rebound after Johnson’s miss and dunked to push the lead to 121-112 with 1:04 left.

After Gordon’s missed jumper on the other end, the Bulls started to foul.

Tyrus Thomas had 15 points and nine rebounds for Chicago. Thabo Sefolosha added 14 points as the fill-in starter for injured forward Luol Deng, who was held out after spraining his left ankle Friday night in Miami.

Mike Bibby had 17 and Williams had 16 for Atlanta.

The Hawks led 68-63 after the highest-scoring first half of the season for both teams.

Pippen made 664 3-pointers in 856 games with the Bulls. Gordon, playing in his 346th game for Chicago, passed Pippen in the first quarter and now has 669 3-pointers.

“It’s an accomplishment, but when you lose it doesn’t mean anything,” Gordon said.

Notes: The Hawks’ previous high was 115 points against Golden State on Dec. 19. ... Johnson had a career-high 42 points against Golden State on March 7, 2006. ... Deng carried crutches but did not appear to be limping. Del Negro said he hopes Deng misses no more than a week. ... F-C Drew Gooden missed his fourth straight game with a sprained right ankle and could return Monday at New Jersey, according to Del Negro. ... A leak in the roof over the court caused a brief delay in the first quarter.

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