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Boston snaps 4-game slide; Hawks drop 11th straight

ATLANTA (AP) -- Their confidence shaken by a four-game losing
streak, Ricky Davis and the Boston Celtics were intent on getting
well against the lowly Atlanta Hawks.

With Davis scoring 20 of his season-high 36 points in the second
period, the Celtics raced to a 30-point lead in the first half and
held off the Hawks 116-100 on Friday night.

The Celtics shot 69 percent from the field in the first half and
60 percent overall, earning praise from coach Doc Rivers.

"This is a great win for us," Rivers said. "I don't know if
we could have shot any better. We were as efficient as we could
be."

The Celtics pushed their Atlantic Division lead over
second-place Philadelphia, which lost to Dallas on Friday night, to
four games. The Celtics, who will play the 76ers at home on Sunday,
also have regained a one-game lead over Cleveland in the fight for
home court advantage in the playoffs.

"We had to win this one," Celtics guard Gary Payton said. "We
couldn't go into that game Sunday three games up and make it a
battle. We've got to pick it up now."

The Hawks suffered their 11th straight loss, including nine
straight at home. They have lost 24 of 25 games.

"Even though they're the last-place team in the league, their
guys still came out and played hard," Davis said. "We wanted to
come out and bury them early so it wouldn't be close like the last
time."

The Celtics escaped with a 95-91 win over the Hawks in Boston on
March 9.

On Friday night, Boston led 32-18 after one period and then
quickly pushed the lead to 30 points as Davis dominated the second
period.

"It's very hard to stop him," said Hawks rookie Josh
Childress, who also set his season high with 26 points. "He can
stop on a dime and pull up. It's hard to guard him. ... What can
you do about that?"

Boston won 11 of its first 12 games after acquiring forward
Antoine Walker from Atlanta on Feb. 24. The streak put the Celtics
in control of their division, but Walker shot only 33 percent from
the field in a four-game losing streak that left Boston only three
games ahead of the 76ers.

Walker scored only seven points, and Paul Pierce had 17, four
below his average, making the bench points from Davis especially
important.

"He had to do that," Rivers said. "Paul was in foul trouble.
Ricky had to play well, and he did."

A 3-pointer by Pierce midway through the second period gave the
Celtics their first 30-point lead, 53-23.

Davis had his 16th game off the bench with 20 or more points,
the most for the Celtics in a season since Kevin McHale had 23 in
1990-91.

Davis made 14 of 17 shots from the field in his second game of
the season with at least 30 points against Atlanta. Davis had 30
points in a 106-94 win over the Hawks in Boston on Jan. 14.

The Hawks couldn't stop Davis, but they still rallied,
outscoring the Celtics 31-22 in the third quarter.

Sparked by six straight points from Tom Gugliotta, the Hawks cut
Boston's lead to nine points, 84-75, late in the third period. The
Celtics led by only 10 points, 94-84, early in the final period,
but they kept the lead in double figures.

Josh Smith had 16 points and Al Harrington added 15 for
Atlanta.

Game notes
The Hawks were without starting point guard Tyronn Lue, who
was sent home with a severe headache. Lue was hit in the head in a
collision with Kwame Brown late in a loss to Washington on
Wednesday night. Rookie Royal Ivey filled in for Lue, making his
fifth start of the season, his first since Dec. 30. Ivey had four
points and two assists. ... Favoring his left knee, Walker hobbled
off the floor with 6:36 left in the third quarter, but he returned
in the fourth quarter.