- The Washington Times - Friday, March 13, 2009

ATLANTA (AP) - Joe Johnson scored 30 points for the third straight game, and Al Horford finished with 17 points and 15 rebounds in the Atlanta Hawks’ fourth straight victory, 101-87 over the Indiana Pacers on Friday night.

Improving to 24-7 at home, Atlanta increased its lead over fifth-place Miami to two games in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks’ 38 wins are one more than their total from last season, when they advanced to the playoffs for the first time in nine years.

Johnson has gone 33-for-64 from the field in Atlanta’s last three games to average 30.3 points.

T.J. Ford, who scored Indiana’s last 14 points, finished with 29. Troy Murphy pulled down 14 rebounds _ all defensive _ for the Pacers, who have lost two straight and three of four.

Atlanta never trailed after Josh Smith’s two free throws with 6:34 left in the third gave the Hawks their first lead since 4 1/2 minutes remained in the first. Horford’s three-point play with 4:43 to play in the game made it 92-75.

A rebound dunk by Hibbert with 8:12 left in the second matched the Pacers’ biggest lead at 13, but Johnson hit an 18-footer in the final minute before halftime to make it 48-45.

Roy Hibbert had 15 points for the Pacers, but just one in the second half.

Indiana began the night 1 1/2 games behind Milwaukee and Chicago to tie for the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot, but New Jersey and Charlotte were each one game ahead of the Pacers.

Notes:@ Hawks coach Mike Woodson said the team has no immediate timetable for F Marvin Williams, who missed his third straight game with a severely strained lower back. Williams was examined in Durham, N.C., on Wednesday, but Woodson indicated the tests were inconclusive. “I think more than anything he’s going to have to rest and then do core work,” the coach said. “That’s what I’m hearing.” … Pacers swingman Danny Granger missed his 10th straight game with a torn tendon in his right foot. Indiana dropped to 6-4 without him.

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