|Atlanta Hawks shooting guard Joe Johnson, middle, is fouled by Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin (32) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, April 24, 2012 in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)|
Johnson leads Hawks to 109-102 win over Clippers
ATLANTA—Joe Johnson scored 28 points, including a wild 3-pointer in the final minute, and the Atlanta Hawks held on for a 109-102 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night, moving a step closer to wrapping up home-court in the first round of the playoffs.
Blake Griffin scored a season-high 36 points, while Chris Paul added 34 in a back-and-forth game in which neither team led by double figures until the Hawks went on a 15-2 run at the end of the third quarter, sparked by Jeff Teague and Josh Smith.
Johnson clinched it with a pair of 3s, knocking down a desperation shot with 38 seconds remaining and the shot clock running down. He threw up a two-handed heave that somehow banked in, giving the Hawks a 103-96 lead.
The score was tied at 70 when the Hawks took control. Teague scored seven straight points and got the best of his fellow Wake Forest guard at the defensive end, stuffing Paul on a drive to the hoop.
Teague stood over the Clippers' star, smiling, but there was no bad blood. Paul hopped up to give the Hawks' player a pat on the backside.
After Paul hit a pair of free throws, Smith scored six straight points, including a dunk after Paul turned it over with an errant pass. Marvin Williams led the fast break, missing on a drive to the hoop, but Smith was there to clean up.
Ivan Johnson closed the quarter with a pair of free throws, pushing the Hawks to an 85-72 lead.
Teague finished with 21 points, while Smith had 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Los Angeles was essentially a two-man team. Griffin scored 16 of the first 21 points for the Clippers, while Paul took control in the second half. But it wasn't enough, not against a much more balanced effort by the Hawks. Williams scored 11 to lead the Atlanta bench, which outscored the Los Angeles reserves 32-19.
Atlanta would wrap up home-court advantage for its opening-round series with Boston if the Celtics lose or the Hawks win their regular-season finale against Dallas. The Clippers are trying to hold on to the fourth seed -- and home-court -- in the West. They'll go into Wednesday's finale at New York tied with Memphis.
Teague was at the center of things coming down the stretch as the Clippers tried to close the gap. First, he leaped outside to block a 3-pointer, sending the ball flying into the seats. Then, winding up in a mismatch with Griffin, Teague managed to hold his ground, knock the ball away and draw a foul on Griffin as they battled for the loose ball.
Teague jawed a bit with Griffin, Mo Williams stepped in and players from both teams got in the middle of things before the confrontation escalated.
Griffin hit eight of nine shots while his teammates were missing seven of nine. His most spectacular basket wasn't one of his thunderous dunks -- instead, he drove under the hoop, then flipped the ball back over his head without looking, turning just in time to watch it drop in.
Los Angeles led 28-23 at the end of the opening quarter, but the Hawks' bench led the home team back. Ivan Johnson sparked a 14-2 run with a defensive play, stuffing Nick Young as he drove into the lane looking for a dunk. At the other end, Willie Green put up a 3-pointer that bounced off the rim, the backboard, the rim again and dropped through.
The Atlanta starters leaped off the bench to celebrate, while Green did a little hop and pumped his fist along the sideline.
NOTES: Before the game, the Hawks presented injured C Zaza Pachulia with the Jason Collier Memorial Trophy for his dedication to community service. The annual award is named after the late Hawks C who died in 2005 from a heart ailment at the age of 28. Collier's widow, daughter and parents attended the ceremony. ... Early in the fourth, Green had a 3-pointer reduced to a 2 after the officials looked at the video replay during a timeout.