ATLANTA (AP) -- The Atlanta Hawks have been claiming they are a
better team than they have shown.
Slowly, their record is starting to support the claim.
Johnson's game-winning shot gave the Hawks their first
three-game winning streak since late in the 2003-04 season.
"I didn't know if he was going to jump or not," Johnson said
of Stevenson. "I was going to try to get a foul if he did."
Johnson, who finished with 23 points and 11 assists, dribbled
inside the 3-point line and launched the high jumper with 0.7 left
on the clock.
"Every time it was close like that, Joe stepped up big," Hawks
forward Josh Smith said.
For a team which has had little to celebrate in recent seasons,
a three-game winning streak is noteworthy.
"That's the first time we've won three in a row since I've been
here," said Smith, a second-year player.
Actually, every player on the Hawks roster could make the same
Since the Hawks last won three straight games -- April 9-12, 2004
-- general manager Billy Knight has completely overhauled the
roster. No players on the current roster were with the team for the
end of the 2003-04 season.
The Hawks hit bottom with only 13 wins last season, never
winning back-to-back games. Atlanta (14-31) topped that total with
Friday night's win.
With Atlanta leading 93-91, Orlando's Tony Battie was fouled by
Tyronn Lue and Zaza Pachulia -- with Lue drawing the call. Battie
shoved Pachulia, and Pachulia was called for a technical foul,
drawing protest from Hawks coach Mike Woodson.
Hedo Turkoglu, who had 15 points, made the free throw for the
technical foul, but Battie missed both free throws, leaving Atlanta
with a 93-92 lead.
After Johnson missed a shot near the basket, Al Harrington
rebounded the miss for Atlanta. Lue made one free throw with 19
seconds left for a 94-92 lead. Steve Francis then made two free
throws with 11 seconds left to tie it.
Francis had 30 points and eight assists and Dwight Howard added
24 points and 16 rebounds for the Magic, who held a 45-43
rebounding edge but surrendered 20 offensive rebounds to the Hawks.
Battie had nine points and 13 rebounds but made only one of four
"They were able to get the offensive rebounds," Francis said.
"That killed us. They got second shots."
Harrington had 18 points and 12 rebounds for Atlanta, which
recently moved past last-place Charlotte in the Southeast Division.
"This is not the end of it," Johnson said of the winning
streak. "We want to keep adding to it and make the game fun."
Orlando has been going through a similar rebuilding process
after a 21-win season in 2003-04. It improved to 36 wins last
season but lost its fourth straight Friday night.
The Magic led only 50-49 at halftime despite shooting 55 percent
from the field, compared to 41.5 percent for the Hawks.
There were six ties in the third quarter, the last at 74 at the
end of the period. But Orlando went almost four minutes without
scoring to open the final period as Atlanta took an 80-74 lead.
The Magic pulled even for the first tie of the final period at
86-all on an inside basket by Howard with 3:02 left. Smith and
Johnson answered with three-point plays as Atlanta grabbed a 92-86
advantage with 2:09 left.
A basket by Francis cut the lead to 92-91 with 1:24 left.
Orlando made only 18 of 31 free throws. ... Smith posted
his second straight double-double -- and only his third of the
season -- with 15 points and 10 rebounds. ... Hawks F Marvin
Williams returned after missing one game with a sore left
Achilles'. The rookie scored six points. ... The Magic, who used
only seven players in a loss to the Clippers Wednesday night, used
nine players in the opening quarter.