Johnson leads Hawks to 109-102 win over Clippers
ATLANTA (AP) — Joe Johnson was just trying to hit the rim.
He wound up doing a lot better than that.
Johnson scored 28 points, including a desperate 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.
Johnson hit a pair of treys coming down the stretch, but the one that really stood out came with 38 seconds remaining and the shot clock running down. From 30 feet away along the sideline, he flung the ball toward the basket with two hands. It somehow banked in to give the Hawks a 103-96 lead.
"The craziest I ever hit in a game" was how Johnson described it. "I had no clue how much time was left or what even happened," he said. "I just heaved it up there. I wanted to at least hit the rim. I accidentally made it."
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 Atlanta went on a 15-2 run at the end of the third quarter, sparked by Jeff Teague and Josh Smith.
The Hawks can wrap up home-court advantage for their opening-round series against Boston by winning the regular-season finale against Dallas on Thursday. They'll also clinch it if the Celtics lose that same night against Milwaukee.
Los Angeles is trying to hold on to the fourth seed — and home-court — in the West. The Clippers go into Wednesday's finale at New York tied with the Memphis Grizzlies.
"I guess we just made it real interesting," Paul said. "We've got to use this game (Wednesday) as a huge barometer as far as what it's going to be like in the playoffs. In the playoffs you're not going to be able to get down 10, 15 and try to come back in the fourth quarter, because the game's going to be way too intense for that."
This game was tied at 70 when the Hawks took control in the final 3:42 of the third. 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.
"It's always fun to play against someone you know," Teague said.
Paul hit a pair of free throws, before Smith responded with six straight points. The last of those came after Paul turned it over with an errant pass, sending Marvin Williams flying down the court on a fast break. He missed the drive, but Smith was there to clean up with a dunk.
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.
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