ATLANTA - In three NBA seasons, Josh Smith has built a reputation on fierce play in the paint.
won't hesitate to shoot jumpers, though, if the Atlanta Hawks need a
big basket. "I'm not a three-point shooter," he said, "but if it comes
to me, I'll take it."
Mike Bibby hit a tying three-pointer in
regulation, Smith made two in overtime, and the Hawks beat the Toronto
Raptors 127-120 on Wednesday night for their fifth straight victory.
increased its lead for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff
spot to four games over Indiana, which lost 92-77 at Boston.
is tied for fifth place with Washington and Philadelphia, but Raptors
coach Sam Mitchell might file a protest with the NBA after the
officials discounted T.J. Ford's basket with no time remaining.
argued with referee Mark Wunderlich, who watched the instant replay,
that Philips Arena officials started the clock early with just 0.5
"We had some opportunities tonight, but
things just didn't go our way in the end," Mitchell said. "Sometimes
these things happen."
Smith's three-pointer from the right side,
making it 114-113 with 2:05 left in overtime, gave the Hawks their
first lead since Josh Childress hit a pair of free throws with 4:25
left in the second quarter.
Chris Bosh's three-point play put
Atlanta back ahead with 1:18 to play, but Bibby followed with a three
before Josh Childress blocked Ford's jump shot. Smith's three from
nearly the same spot as his previous attempt made it 122-118.
thought his basket at the end of regulation should've counted. The
Hawks were fooled badly on the play, which was designed for Ford to
line up at the top of the key and run toward Carlos Delfino and catch
an inbounds pass.
Instead, Ford ran easily into the lane and
jumped for Delfino's alley-oop pass. The officials originally ruled
that Ford banked in his basket as the horn sounded.
"I thought it could go either way," Ford said. "I didn't want to get too excited."
had 24 points for Toronto, and Ford finished with 23 points and 13
assists. Rasho Nesterovic scored 21 points and reserve guard Jose
Calderon handed out 10 assists for the Raptors.
Joe Johnson led
the Hawks with 28 points. Bibby had 26 and Smith finished with 24.
Bibby and Johnson combined for 23 assists. Al Horford pulled down 11
Bibby forced overtime with a three-pointer from the
left corner, taking Childress' inbound bounce pass from the baseline
and faking out Ford.
Not one to show much emotion, Bibby denied that he celebrated with a little dance.
"It was a walk," he said with a smile. "My mom will not like it."
by 17 on Nesterovic's runner with 1:09 left in the third, Toronto had
almost nothing go right after Jamario Moon's 18-footer gave it a 105-98
lead with 5:19 remaining.
The Raptors made just one basket in
their last nine possessions of regulation - a six-foot runner by Ford
that gave them a 107-104 lead with 1:32 left.
15-for-20 from the field in the third quarter, led by Anthony Parker's
4-for-4, before everyone but Ford and Bosh went cold.
you're on the road playing in a tough environment, you have to
execute," Bosh said. "The Hawks have been playing very well, and we
knew they would make a run. We did a pretty good job withstanding the
run, but everything just didn't fall our way tonight. I wouldn't take
anything away from Atlanta. They played hard tonight."
Smith, who grew up in Atlanta and entered the NBA straight from high
school, winning a tight game was just what the playoff-starved Hawks
"We're confident," Smith said. "We feel good about
ourselves. We feel like the sky's the limit for this team. We're not
taking nights off."
Notes: With a 35-40 record, Atlanta matched
its highest victory total since 2002-03. ... The Hawks, who haven't
made the playoffs since 1999, will put first-round tickets on sale
Saturday. ... They beat the Raptors for the first time in five tries.
... Nesterovic's three-pointer at the end of the first quarter was his
first in 11 career regular-season attempts.