Atlanta 105, Houston 99 (F)

ATLANTA, Feb. 23 (AP)-- The Atlanta Hawks, who have missed the playoffs seven straight years, believe they could join the postseason fun in the weak Eastern Conference this year - if only they could win more at home.

The Hawks earned a rare impressive home win Friday night as Joe Johnson scored 31 points and Atlanta survived a late scare to beat Tracy McGrady and the Houston Rockets 105-99.

The Hawks, tied for the second-most road wins in the conference with 12, ended a four-game home losing streak.

The Hawks earned only their 10th win in 26 home games.

"It shouldn't be that way,'' Johnson said.

"We could easily be in the playoff mix if we could do better at home.''

The Hawks showed more scoring depth, with their bench outscoring the Rockets' reserves 32-8.

Coach Jeff Van Gundy didn't want to shift responsibility from his starters, however, after allowing the Hawks to score 13 points more than their league-worst average.

"They played no defense,'' Van Gundy said. "This is the lowest-scoring team in the NBA. The worst field-goal percentage shooting team in the NBA. And they shredded us.''

The Rockets lost for only the fourth time in 13 games.

The Rockets held Atlanta to its lowest point total of the season in a 94-68 win in Houston on Dec. 29.

The turnaround was encouraging for Hawks coach Mike Woodson.

"That's huge for our young team,'' Woodson said. "We've got to start building on that and try to establish something here at home.''

Josh Smith and Marvin Williams each had 20 points for the Hawks, who hit seven free throws in the final 75 seconds to seal the victory.

The Hawks, who won three of four before the All-Star break, ended a two-game skid following the break.

"It's really big,'' Smith said. "It let us get our swagger back. We got some confidence back.''

Smith blocked three shots and had 10 rebounds. Josh Childress also had 10 rebounds, including six offensive as the Hawks outscored the Rockets 19-10 in second-chance points.

"You know what? We just didn't play defense tonight,'' McGrady said. "Plain and simple. The thing that makes us great, we kind of got away from that the past four or five games.''

Added McGrady: "You score 99 points on the road, you're supposed to win by 15 points.''

A basket by Johnson gave Atlanta an 86-82 lead, but a 3-pointer by Rafer Alston tied the game at 86-86 with 5:48 left. The Rockets took their first lead of the second half on a free throw by McGrady.

The Hawks recovered to lead 94-88 with 3:13 left following a fadeaway jumper by Johnson over Shane Battier. McGrady missed a jumper from the corner and Williams made a shot for a 96-90 lead with 1:40 left.

The Hawks led 98-91 following two free throws by Zaza Pachulia, but McGrady made a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 98-94 with 1:07 left.

McGrady, fouled by Johnson on a 3-pointer with 20.9 seconds left, made the three free throws to cut Atlanta's lead to 101-99.

Williams then made two free throws, and McGrady missed a lay-up attempt.

Alston scored 23 for Houston. Juwan Howard added 19.

McGrady had 17 points in the first half but was 2-for-9 from the field after making his first four shots.

Notes: Houston C Yao Ming, who broke a bone under his right knee on Dec. 23, wore a large brace on the knee as he took shots before the game. ... Anthony Johnson, acquired in a trade Thursday, arrived in Atlanta on Friday night but was not in uniform or on the bench for the game. ... Tyronn Lue sat out his seventh straight game with a hamstring injury. He hopes to practice Saturday and possibly return next week.


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