Hawks beat Spurs, clinch playoffs

BY foxsports • March 21, 2010

The Atlanta Hawks didn't celebrate clinching their third straight playoff berth.

The Hawks showed against the San Antonio Spurs that they have reason to aim for bigger goals than simply qualifying for the postseason.

Marvin Williams scored 26 points to lead three scorers with 20 or more points and the Hawks beat San Antonio, 119-114, in overtime on Sunday night for their first win over the Spurs in five years.

Joe Johnson said making the playoffs ``was one of our goals, but it's not our main goal. We still have a lot of work ahead of us.''

Many Atlanta players didn't know the win clinched a playoff berth or ended a seven-game losing streak in their series against the Spurs.

``That doesn't matter to us,'' Johnson said of the team's long history of futility against the Spurs. ``It doesn't matter to me. We're just trying to get wins, and I don't care who they come against.''

Manu Ginobili, who matched his season high with 38 points for San Antonio, called the loss ``heartbreaking.''

Johnson's jumper with 1:21 remaining in overtime gave Atlanta a 113-111 lead. After a missed three-pointer by San Antonio's Matt Bonner, Al Horford hit a jumper as the shot clock expired to push the lead to four points with 35 seconds remaining.

``Great game. Tough loss,'' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

Horford, who had six points in overtime, had 22 points and 18 rebounds. Johnson had 20 points with 13 assists.

Jamal Crawford, who had 19 points, had good reason to cherish the win. The ninth-year veteran in his first season with Atlanta is going to the playoffs for the first time.

``It's unbelievable,'' Crawford said. ``I've been waiting for this for a long time. ... It feels good to officially get it.''

Tim Duncan had 29 points and 13 rebounds for San Antonio.

The Spurs had a rough start to perhaps their toughest stretch of the season. They play at Oklahoma City on Monday before playing the Los Angeles Lakers, Cleveland and Boston.

``We know we've got a really tough stretch,'' Ginobili said. ``We made a huge effort to stay in the game, have the opportunity to win it. We couldn't finish it.

``It's tough to lose a game like this when we had a great opportunity.''

The Hawks scored 21 points off 13 turnovers by the Spurs.

``I feel we gave this one away,'' Duncan said. ``With the stretch that we have, we can't give any away.

``I think this was a building block because we played well, well enough to win against an elite team, but we just could not get over the hump.''

A tip-in by Horford tied the game at 105-all with 52 seconds remaining in regulation. After a miss by Ginobili, Johnson missed two shots on the Hawks' final possession of regulation.

The Hawks, who trailed by 14 in the first half, matched their biggest comeback of the season.

Atlanta kept the lead most of the third period and second half but the Spurs stayed close.

The Hawks moved back into a tie with Boston for third place in the Eastern Conference. They have won five of their past six games.

Williams answered coach Mike Woodson's call for more offense. Williams, averaging 10.2 points, scored 20 or more points for only the third time this season.

``I'm just trying to play with a lot of energy,'' Williams said.

Johnson said Williams ``pretty much carried us in the first half and kept us in the game.''

Williams scored 11 points in the last 5:17 of the first half, including a steal and jumper before the buzzer to give the Hawks a 53-51 halftime lead - their first lead since 4-2.

``That was big,'' Williams said. ``We carried that momentum into the second half.''

Williams' shot capped a 23-9 run to end the half. Another highlight of the run was Josh Smith's left-handed jam on an alley-oop pass from Johnson.

Notes: The Spurs' previous loss to the Hawks came on Dec. 10, 2005, in Atlanta. ... Williams' 18 points in the first half marked his high points total for a game in his past nine games. ... The Spurs fell to 16-17 away from San Antonio with their second straight road loss.