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 Johnson, Murray power Hawks to 7th straight win

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PostSubject: Johnson, Murray power Hawks to 7th straight win   Fri Mar 20, 2009 6:55 pm

ATLANTA(AP) Hawks coach Mike Woodson winced
every time Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry pulled up for jumpers
in the fourth quarter."It just happened to go our way in the
end,'' Woodson said. "Our defense helped as well, especially when we
had to have it down the stretch.''Joe Johnson scored 24 points,
and reserve Flip Murray had 19 in the Atlanta Hawks' seventh straight
victory, 95-87 over the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night.The Hawks moved four games ahead of the fifth-place Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference standings.Dallas
has lost three of four to drop 1 1/2 behind seventh-place Utah in the
Western Conference, but the Mavericks are still 3 1/2 ahead of Phoenix
for the eighth and final playoff spot.Nowitzki scored 23 points
and 12 rebounds, but he and Terry combined to go just 2-for-10 in the
fourth quarter. The Mavs finished 6-for-31 on 3-point attempts,
including a combined 0-for-8 in the final period from Terry and Jason
Kidd."I think we got off to a good start in the first quarter,''
Kidd said. "We kind of forgot all of that in the second quarter, and
that's when the game shifted in the Hawks' favor. From then on, it was
an uphill battle. We were able to get some stops defensively, but we
just couldn't make any 3s when we needed to.''Dallas was without
two starters, swingman Josh Howard, who has a sore left ankle, and
forward Erick Dampier, who has a swollen left knee and missed his first
game of the season.The Mavs also didn't have coach Rick Carlisle
after the 2:46 mark of the second quarter. Official Derrick Stafford
ejected him for arguing with 2:46 left in the second. Lead assistant
Dwane Casey coached the rest of the game for Dallas.Carlisle
likely was also upset with the swing in momentum after watching Brandon
Bass give the Mavs and eight-point with a dunk at the 9:40 mark of the
second. Over the next 7:24, however, Dallas was outscored 21-6,
including an 18-0 run that soon ended the coach's night."I
thought Dirk was being held and pushed and got fouled repeatedly,''
Carlisle said. "I kept asking for a foul to be called, but it wasn't. I
turned to the official and just got thrown out.''The Hawks have
held each opponent under 100 points during the winning streak, and the
average margin of victory has been 13. Atlanta's franchise record for
consecutive victories in a homestand came Feb. 21-March 11, 1979, when
the Hawks won eight straight."We came out and fought hard this
whole homestand,'' Johnson said after his team improved to 27-7 at
Philips Arena. "That was the main thing. Protect our home court and try
to win every game. I thought our defense got us over the hump.''Atlanta padded the lead to 80-74 with 2:08 remaining when Al Horford tipped in Johnson's missed runner."I
think we did a really good job of holding them off every time they made
runs and finishing out the game,'' Horford said. "We just needed to
really establish the inside presence; they were getting the offensive
rebounds and stuff like that.''The Mavs never came closer than
two after Bass hit a pair of free throws with 11:26 remaining. Murray's
runner 5:14 later gave the Hawks an eight-point lead at 87-79.Though his team needed two free throws apiece from Johnson and Mike Bibby to seal the victory, Woodson appreciated the outcome."The
main quarter that counts is the fourth quarter, and we've been pretty
good this year in the fourth quarter,'' Woodson said. "That's where the
game was won tonight, I thought.''Notes: Atlanta improved to
35-9 this season when opponents score under 100. ... Dallas dropped to
2-19 on the road when entering the fourth quarter with a deficit. ...
Against the Eastern Conference, the Mavs are now 8-5 away from Dallas.
... Nowitzki has scored at least 20 points in 12 straight games, the
NBA's longest current streak. ... After visiting Cleveland on Saturday,
the Hawks have a four-game homestand against Minnesota, San Antonio,
Boston and the Los Angeles Lakers.

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