A late-season winning streak without their leading scorer in the lineup is giving the Atlanta Hawks a much-needed confidence boost.

The Hawks (26-39) look to win five straight for the first time in more than seven years when they visit the woeful Boston Celtics on Wednesday night.

Atlanta matched its longest winning streak this season after defeating Philadelphia 104-92 on Tuesday, With Joe Johnson out again, Josh Smith scored 26 points and added a career-high 17 rebounds while Josh Childress and Zaza Pachulia added 15 points apiece.

"We win four games and it's like, 'Oh, was that the problem?' " Childress said. "I think we just caught a nice little stretch of games and our confidence ... we're just playing carefree. With the group it's more, 'Let's play and have fun.' And when you're having fun, playing carefree, your game goes up to another level."

Johnson, who averages 25.0 points, suffered a right leg contusion March 5 during a loss at Miami and has missed all four Hawks wins.

"That has to be big for our team and our confidence," Smith said. "We have to figure out a way to keep it up without him until he gets back."

The Hawks haven't won five in a row since Nov. 27-Dec. 8, 1999, which also was during the last season they finished above .500. Atlanta has beaten the Celtics twice this season, including an 82-76 win in Boston on Jan. 24.

After dropping their season-opener, the Hawks also won four in a row from Nov. 3-10 before losing four in a row. Prior to this winning streak, Atlanta had lost six straight.

The Hawks first three wins in their current run were by a combined 10 points, but they put away the 76ers early. Smith's layup 1:15 into the game made it 4-2, and Atlanta never trailed again. The Hawks' biggest lead was 29 with 3:50 left in the third quarter.

The win matched Atlanta's total from last season with 17 games remaining. It also moved the team within four games of New York and Indiana for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Atlanta has won four of the last five meetings from Boston (18-45). Still, the Hawks are just 4-10 in Boston since the 1999-2000 season.

The Celtics lost for the third time in four games after falling to Chicago 95-87 on Tuesday. Paul Pierce scored 24 points and Delonte West added 19 after missing two games with a mild concussion.

"I thought we had the perfect game plan tonight," Pierce said.

This was the second game of a home-and-home set with the Bulls. Boston lost 94-78 to Chicago at home on Sunday.

The Celtics have the fewest home wins in the league as they're just 8-23 at TD Banknorth Garden.


Copyright 2006 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited