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Johnson's 25 power Hawks' defeat of Nuggets

ATLANTA -- Mike Woodson couldn't remember another homestand in his 26 years as an NBA player and coach as long as the eight-game stretch his Atlanta Hawks just completed.

Thanks to their successful stay in Atlanta, the Hawks gave their coach reason for another history lesson.

Joe Johnson scored 25 points and the Hawks beat the Denver Nuggets 109-91 on Monday night to close out the homestand with a long-awaited milestone.

The Hawks (20-10) reached 20 wins before New Year's Day for the first time since the 1987-88 season, when second-year center Al Horford was 1.

"It feels great, but we've got to stay focused and take care of business," Horford said. "I think we've got all the right tools to be a winning team."

Atlanta completed its longest homestand of the season with a 7-1 record, including five straight wins. Its only loss was to Boston.

"It's huge," Woodson said.

"I've never been part of a schedule that had eight straight home games. It can either help you or hurt you, and in our case it helped."

Atlanta plays Tuesday at Indiana in its final game of 2008.

Seven teams won 20 games this season before the Hawks. Even relatively modest accomplishments are noteworthy in Atlanta, which finished the 2004-05 season with only 13 wins. The Hawks made the playoffs last season for the first time since 1999.

The Hawks, bolstered by their strong start, are shooting for their first 50-win season since 1997-98.

"I've never been on a 50-win team," forward Marvin Williams said. "The guys are really looking for it."

Denver, averaging 105.8 points in its last 18 games, was held to 38 points in the second half.

"We simply ran out of gas," Denver coach George Karl said. "We didn't do enough fundamental things well, and we fell apart in the fourth quarter."

The Hawks made 12 of 23 3-point attempts, including 5-of-6 by Mike Bibby, who had 20 points and nine assists.

"They were running around, scrambling and he was getting a lot of open shots," Denver guard Chauncey Billups said. "When somebody's got it going like that, you just have to contest. He played great. Even when we made plays, Bibby played a little bit better."

Horford had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Flip Murray added 13 points.

The Hawks took a 44-27 advantage in rebounds.

"Aside from their 3-point shooting, their offensive rebounding was tremendous," said Kenyon Martin, who led Denver with 19 points but said it was difficult to shoot over Atlanta's long list of players 6-foot-8 or taller.

"It makes it tough because they're long," Martin said.

Carmelo Anthony, who scored 32 points in the Nuggets' 117-110 victory at the New York Knicks on Sunday, had only half that total with 16 points on 4-for-17 shooting from the field.

Anthony, who drew a technical foul with 3:50 remaining, was defended by Williams most of the night.

"I didn't frustrate him," Williams said. "He's a superstar. He's a scorer. I was just trying to make it tough on him."

Williams had defensive help.

"The whole defense was surrounding me," Anthony said. "The shots I made yesterday weren't going it. Just one of those days."

Billups and J.R. Smith each added 11 points for Denver. Billups drew a technical foul 1:17 after Anthony's in the fourth quarter.

"I don't lose easy, man," Billups said.

There were 16 lead changes, but Denver's last lead was 64-63 early in the second half. Atlanta stretched its lead to double digits for the first time at 81-71 when Maurice Evans opened the fourth period with a 3-pointer.

The Nuggets trailed only 54-53 at halftime but were outscored 55-38 in the second half.

Game notes
Josh Smith had 10 points and eight rebounds. ... Karl was denied his 900th career win. ... Nene was held out with a stiff neck following a fall in Sunday's win at New York. He was not in uniform and Karl said he didn't know when the forward-center would return. ... Atlanta's winning streak is its longest since opening the season with six straight wins.