Hughes leads Knicks over the Hawks

March 4, 2009 7:29:17 PM PST
Larry Hughes scored 23 points to continue his turnaround from a rocky start with his new team, and the New York Knicks snapped a three-game losing streak with a 109-105 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night. Al Harrington had 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Danilo Gallinari scored a career-high 17 points for New York, which got March off to a good start after a 3-10 February that damaged its hopes of making the playoffs in Mike D'Antoni's first season. Wilson Chandler finished with 18 points.

The Knicks entered the night only three games behind eighth-place Milwaukee in the race for the final Eastern Conference spot, but with four teams ahead of them and a road-heavy schedule remaining.

Al Horford had 20 points and 13 rebounds for the Hawks, who are trying to hold off Miami and Detroit for fourth place in the East but lost for the fifth time in seven games. Joe Johnson scored 18 points, Marvin Williams 17 and Josh Smith 16.

Hughes was acquired from Chicago at the trade deadline and began his Knicks career with three straight dreadful games, going 4-for-22 and quickly becoming a target of the fans' boos. But he averaged 22 points in two losses over the weekend and followed with a 9-for-18 night in 41 minutes Wednesday.

The Knicks, wearing Nueva York jerseys as part of "Noche Latina" - Latin night - were without top reserve Nate Robinson, who had a sprained left ankle. Gallinari, the No. 6 overall pick in the draft from Italy who missed most of the first half of the season with a back injury, helped them overcome that with the best game of his injury-hampered career.

He checked back in with under 3 minutes remaining in the third quarter and quickly had a driving layup and stepped back for a 3-pointer, helping New York extend a four-point lead to 79-72. The Knicks led 84-75 after three, and Gallinari nailed another 3 to open the fourth and extend the lead to 12.

Harrington followed with a pair of buckets while drawing fouls and Hughes scored to push the lead to 95-79 with about nine minutes to go. Atlanta didn't make another serious run until the final two minutes.

The Hawks powered their way to 24 points in the paint on their way to a 26-22 lead after one quarter. Atlanta led by as many as eight in the second, but New York surged back and took a 51-49 edge into halftime after Chandler's free throws with 3.6 seconds left.

Notes: The Knicks were also without Jared Jeffries (bruised left knee). ... Atlanta remained on 14 road wins and needs one more to hit 15 for the first time since the lockout-delayed 1999 season. ... Eight teams are taking part in Latin night games this month. Dallas was wearing "Los Mavs" uniforms for their game Wednesday night against San Antonio.