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Hawks Cruise Past Grizzlies 116-99

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[April 01, 2008]  MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- Josh Smith had 26 points, eight rebounds and six assists as the Atlanta Hawks built an early lead before and beat the Memphis Grizzlies 116-99 on Monday night.

Atlanta led by 38 in the third quarter and seemed to be coasting to the victory. However, Memphis opened the fourth with 13 consecutive points, part of a 23-4 run that made the game more interesting, and forced Atlanta to put its starters back in the game.

Fans who had booed the Grizzlies earlier in the half suddenly were on their feet -- at least those who hadn't given up and headed home -- as Memphis cut the lead to 12 midway through the period.

But the Hawks' advantage was just too much to overcome.

Six Atlanta players finished in double figures as the Hawks won for the fourth time in five games and kept a solid hold on the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Al Horford and Joe Johnson scored 19 points each for Atlanta, and Mike Bibby had 17, Josh Childress 14 and Marvin Williams 12. Johnson also had eight assists and Bibby seven.

Smith shot 11-of-13 from the field, part of Atlanta's 56 percent effort on the night.

Rudy Gay led Memphis with 29 points, while Juan Carlos Navarro and Kyle Lowry finished with 17 each.

The Grizzlies never made the game competitive through the first three quarters. The Hawks shot 69 percent in the first half, and their 73 points at the break surpassed the most surrendered by Memphis in the opening two periods this season.

All five of the Hawks' starters had reached double figures by halftime. At that point, it appeared to be just a matter of Atlanta keeping its focus to finish the final two quarters.

The Grizzlies were met with periodic boos from those in attendance, particularly when they showed little effort early in the second half, and Atlanta extended the lead to 38.

One of the biggest cheers in the third period came with about four minutes left when the Hawks missed their only free throw of the game after hitting the first 19.

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From the opening tip, the Hawks' shooters had little resistance from the Memphis defenders. Atlanta was still shooting almost 70 percent from the field in the final minutes of the first half. The Hawks not only were scoring inside, but they were hitting 58 percent on 3-pointers while building the lead to as many as 29 before halftime.

The Hawks already had reached 100 points with 2:46 left in the third period and carried a 103-72 in the fourth.

Memphis outscored Atlanta 27-13 in the final period.

Notes: The crowd appeared much less than the 10,281 announced. The Grizzlies are a bit of an afterthought right now, taking a back seat in community interest to the University of Memphis' Final Four run that resumes with the national semifinal on Saturday against UCLA. ... The Grizzlies were trying to win their sixth game in March, which would have been the most for any month this season. ... Bibby, who was acquired by the Hawks in a Feb. 16 trade with Sacramento, started his career with the Grizzlies. He played three years with the team while it was in Vancouver after he was the Grizzlies' first-round draft pick (the second overall) in the 1998 draft. ...The Grizzlies had given up 72 points in the first half twice this season, the last time coming March 11 at Phoenix.

[Associated Press; By DOUG ALDEN]

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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