Johnsonís Late Shot Lifts Hawks Over Magic
Atlanta 96, Orlando 94
ATLANTA, Feb. 3 (Ticker) -- Joe Johnson's last-second heroics helped the Atlanta Hawks do two things they were unable to accomplish last season.
Johnson scored 23 points, including an off-balance jumper with seven-tenths of a second remaining, as the Hawks posted their third straight win, a 96-94 triumph over the Orlando Magic.
"We got three in a row for the first time," Hawks second-year swingman Josh Smith said. "Our team is playing very well. We're way more talented than our record. We have to keep playing and keep winning."
"The guys have gotten better," Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said. "The young guys are improving and getting better. Each day, they come to work, and they've played in enough games to limit the number of mistakes to the point where as the year goes on, they will continue to improve. You should see a different team because they are continuing to improve."
Johnson has been a key factor during the winning streak. The 6-7 guard, who was acquired in an offseason trade with Phoenix, recorded his first triple-double in Wednesday's win over Charlotte.
However, Johnson cited the maturity of his younger teammates as the reason for the recent success.
"We've been getting better and maturing every day," Johnson said. "The rookies from last year - Josh Smith, Josh Childress and Royal Ivey - getting a year under their belt makes a difference. We have to keep playing every day."
The game was tied at 94-94 when Johnson, who also dished out 11 assists, overcame tough defensive pressure from DeShawn Stevenson by stopping on the left elbow and lofting a jumper that swished through the net.
"Anytime I shoot, I feel like it's going in," Johnson said. "I got a good look at it. I pump-faked a couple of times. I didn't know if he was going to jump or not. I was going to try to get a foul if he did."
"Joe just took it to the basket," Stevenson said. "I was on him, he made a pump fake, and I didn't want to get all the way close because he would have drawn a foul. He shot the ball and then I put my hand up and he made it. He's a talented player and he made a good shot."
Orlando had a chance to tie, but Hedo Turkoglu's long inbounds pass to Atlanta native Dwight Howard went astray.
Steve Francis scored 30 points for the Magic, who shot just 18-of-31 (58 percent) from the foul line.
Al Harrington collected 18 points and 12 rebounds, including five of Atlanta's 20 offensive boards that led to 22 second-chance points.
"They had their way on the offensive boards, which lead to 22 second-chance points," Magic head coach Brian Hill said. "That was the biggest thing we discussed coming into the game, playing the dribble penetration and keeping them off the boards. We just weren't able to do it."
"Throughout the game, we didn't shoot free throws particularly well," Francis said. "They were able to get to the offensive boards, which killed us. They got second shots and our bench was outscored, 24-6, so all those things played a factor."
Also playing a factor was Atlanta's uncharacteristic concern while having possession. The Hawks, who entered averaging a third-worst 15.7 turnovers per game, surrendered the ball a season-low five times.
"That was really big," Hawks guard Tyronn Lue said. "I've never been on a team where we only had five turnovers or less. We really took care of the ball, and that's why I guess we won the game."