Unbeaten Hawks cruise past Raptors

September 13, 2009, 11:35 PM

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Hawks may be for real. Just ask Joe Johnson.

Mike Bibby scored all of his 19 points in the first half, making four three-pointers during an 18-4 run that broke open the game, and the unbeaten Hawks routed the Toronto Raptors 110-92 on Friday night.

Bibby added 12 assists for Atlanta (4-0). The Hawks are off to their best start since 1997, when they won their first 11 games.

"You can see it, the swagger. We’re coming out executing," said Johnson, who added 17 points. "The four teams we opened with, we’ve had problems with in the past. We have to validate that by bringing this same effort day in and day out."

The four wins have come against teams that were in the playoffs last season, Orlando, Philadelphia, New Orleans and Toronto. The victories against Toronto and New Orleans were on the road.

In playing its best game of the season the Hawks looked similar to the team that pushed the Boston Celtics to seven games in the first round of last season’s playoffs. Atlanta hadn’t been in the post-season since 1998-99 before that run.

"It seems we have kind of turned the corner. I think we can shift into another gear," said Johnson.

Chris Bosh led Toronto (3-2) with 26 points. Jose Calderon, the Raptors’ second-leading scorer, had only six points on 2-of-10 shooting, but finished with 12 assists.

Bibby was 7-for-9 from the field in the first half, hitting five of seven three-pointers. He went 0-for-3 after the break.

"He had the hot hand. He couldn’t miss and opened up the floor for us," Johnson said.

"I kept shooting (in the first half). They were leaving me open," said Bibby. "It’s exciting (4-0) start. If we had more offence than we had tonight, we’d be awesome."

Atlanta’s Josh Smith sprained his left ankle with 56 seconds left in the first quarter and could miss two to four weeks, the Hawks said.

.Atlanta was leading 44-39 when Bibby went on his tear, sparking the big run with his four threes. The Hawks’ biggest advantage was 27 points at 110-83 with 1:48 left.

Flip Murray added 16 points for Atlanta. Maurice Evans scored 15 and Marvin Williams 14. The points were season highs for Bibby, Murray, Evans and Williams.

Atlanta got a boost from seldom-used Solomon Jones, who got to play 25 minutes when Smith was hurt and Al Horford got into early foul trouble. Jones scored six points and led the team with nine rebounds.

"There was just nothing we could do to stop them," said Raptors coach Sam Mitchell. "We just couldn’t guard them tonight. Almost everybody was off. It happens."

The Hawks shot 54 per cent (44-for-81).

Notes: Smith was listed as day-to-day. "He’s a quick healer," Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said. "I don’t expect him to be out long. We’ll evaluate him tomorrow." … Toronto led the NBA in three-point shooting entering the game at 30-for-59 (51 per cent), but Atlanta outdid the Raptors, hitting 12-of-20 from long range. The Raptors made only 4-of-9. … Johnson and Bosh played together on the U.S. national team in the summer of 2006. … Murray and Toronto C/F Jermaine O’Neal were teammates last season with Indiana.

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