ATLANTA (AP) - As long as the Atlanta Hawks are without Marvin Williams, Joe Johnson will keep looking for ways to score more."We've all got to pick up our play, definitely," Johnson said. "I'm trying to be the first one. At least jump-start us."
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Johnson scored 30 points for the third straight game, and Al Horford finished with 17 points and 15 rebounds in the Hawks' fourth straight victory, 101-87 over the Indiana Pacers on Friday night.
Improving to 24-7 at home, Atlanta increased its lead over fifth-place Miami to two games in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks' 38 wins are one more than their total from last season, when they advanced to the playoffs for the first time in nine years.
Johnson has gone 33-for-64 from the field in Atlanta's last three games to average 30.3 points. The streak is his longest since he scored at least 30 in five straight games from Nov. 28-Dec. 5, 2006, but his top concern lately has been the health of Williams, a starting forward with a severely strained lower back.
"I'm just coming out trying to be aggressive from the start," Johnson said. "Just trying to get in a rhythm early and then just trying to get my teammates involved. I think my shot has been feeling pretty good, and that makes all the difference."
T.J. Ford, who scored Indiana's last 14 points, finished with 29. Troy Murphy pulled down 14 rebounds - all defensive - for the Pacers, who have lost two straight and three of four.
Atlanta never trailed after Josh Smith's two free throws with 6:34 left in the third gave the Hawks their first lead since 4 1/2 minutes remained in the first. Horford's three-point play with 4:43 to play in the game made it 92-75.
A rebound dunk by Roy Hibbert with 8:12 left in the second matched the Pacers' biggest lead at 13, but Johnson hit an 18-footer in the final minute before halftime to make it 48-45.
Hibbert had 15 points for the Pacers, but just one in the second half.
"Roy struggled at the defensive end tonight, guarding pick-and-rolls" Indiana coach Jim O'Brien said. "The game is played at both ends of the court, and you need to have a balanced attack offensively and defensively if you're going win in this league."
Indiana began the night 1 1/2 games behind Milwaukee and Chicago to tie for the Eastern Conference's eighth and final playoff spot, but New Jersey and Charlotte were each one game ahead of the Pacers.
"Yeah, but you can only cover so much ground if you win," Ford said. "With us losing, it's not helping us put pressure on any of those guys. It's hard to say, but you can only say you're two games back for how long? You know? At some point, either we're going to put some games together or we're not."
Indiana guard Jarrett Jack, a former standout guard at Georgia Tech, scored 10 points on 5-for-17 shooting while also trying to guard Johnson.
"Tonight he was definitely a matchup problem for us," Jack said. "We kept getting caught up in transition, and Joe was able to take advantage of that."
With Portland visiting Atlanta on Sunday, Johnson only hopes he can keep up his elite pace if necessary.
"Seems like I'm just taking what the defense gives me," he said. "If I've got the open shot, I'm just taking, I'm not thinking about it. That's the main thing. I'm freelancing a little bit."
The Hawks have no immediate timetable for Williams, who missed his third straight game. A third-year veteran who has benefited from more aggressive play and an accurate jumper this season, Williams was examined in Durham, N.C., on Wednesday, but coach Woodson indicated the tests were inconclusive. "I think more than anything he's going to have to rest and then do core work," Woodson said. "That's what I'm hearing." ... Pacers swingman Danny Granger missed his 10th straight game with a torn tendon in his right foot. Indiana dropped to 6-4 without him. "When we get Danny back, hopefully we can jell right away," Ford said. "It'll all depend on his health."