Joe Johnson scored 28 points, 14 in the fourth quarter and 24 in the second half, and Josh Smith had 19 points and 13 rebounds as the Atlanta Hawks fought off a spirited Milwaukee Bucks bench squad to win 97-92 in Wisconson on Monday night.
With Al Horford out, Johnson has been beastly for the Hawks, scoring almost 23 points per game and scoring over a point per possession in five of the seven games since Horford was lost against Indiana. The Hawks, expected to take a dive after Horford's absence, have won six of seven instead.
The Bucks came in riding high after a pair of road wins in New York and Miami, and played the Hawks close until the very end, when Johnson put the Hawks on his back, made the key plays and the Bucks couldn't stop him.
With less than two minutes left in the game and the score tied at 84, Johnson made a tough series of moves that ended with a runner in the lane. Next time down for the Hawks, Johnson did it again, this time extending the Hawks lead to three points.
The Bucks played the fourth quarter with only one starter in the lineup, point guard Brandon Jennings (21 points), as Scott Skiles sat Andrew Bogut, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Carlos Delfino, and Shaun Livingston after they rotated out in the third quarter. The scrappy Milwaukee bench played hard, led by Mike Dunleavy’s 17 points and Ersan Ilyasova’s 10 rebounds. Drew Gooden had 13, none bigger than the corner three that tied the game at 88 with about a minute left in the game.
Gooden’s improbable three, his second of the season in seven attempts, was immediately trumped by Josh Smith, who was the beneficiary of a wise extra pass from Jeff Teague after the Bucks defense understandably collapsed on a driving Johnson. Smith calmly took his own corner three and, after missing 11 of his first 12 three-point shots this season, made his second also, giving the Hawks a 91-88 lead.
On the other end, Dunleavy found himself wide open for his own three after Smith lost him in rotation, but it rimmed out. When he got it back on the next Bucks possession, again in position to tie the game with a three, he tried to pass the ball to the corner and it was deflected by Marvin Williams, inserted for defense, for the steal and two Josh Smith free throws later the Hawks had sealed the deal.
Brandon Jennings led the Bucks with 21 points and 11 assists, but struggled early defending Teague, who got the Hawks started with 11 first quarter points. Teague was having a fine game until the fourth quarter, when he didn’t look to get inside as before and when he did, he turned it over three times down the stretch.
Elsewhere for Milwaukee, Bogut struggled shooting, making only three of 10 from the field, but did get 12 rebounds and Stephen Jackson, recently relegated to bench duty, played 28 minutes, including the entire fourth quarter defending Johnson, and took only a single shot. He missed.