Hawks reach season high in points


ATLANTA (AP) -- Jacque Vaughn had a feeling it might be a good
night during the shootaround.

"He had that rhythm going," teammate Jason Terry said.

Vaughn kept it going in the game, hitting his first eight shots
and scoring a career-high 23 points Tuesday to lead the Atlanta
Hawks past the Denver Nuggets, 112-98.

"The first one felt good. The second one felt good," Vaughn
said. "After that, the rest of them felt good, too."

The Hawks snapped a four-game losing streak and set a season
high for points.

Vaughn, who was averaging just 4.5 points a game, finished
9-of-13 from the field, setting a career high for field goals and
eclipsing his previous best of 20 points.

"I've never seen him shoot like that," Denver's Marcus Camby

Vaughn insisted that he wasn't trying to fill the void caused by
the suspension of Stephen Jackson, the Hawks' third-leading scorer.

"You go into the game thinking like that and good things
usually don't happen," Vaughn said. "When you don't force things,
go with the flow, good things happen."

Jackson was suspended for one game after a heated exchange with
the coaching staff in Cleveland last weekend. He wasn't missed.

Shareef Abdur-Rahim scored 22 points and Terry 20 -- the first
time all season that Atlanta put three players in the 20s. Theo
Ratliff added a season-high 12.

"I had a lot of fun," Terry said. "That's what it's all
about, especially when things aren't looking so good. You've got to
have fun. I enjoyed myself tonight."

Denver has lost two in a row for just the second time this
season. The Nuggets, one of the league's most surprising teams,
dropped a half-game behind Dallas and Houston for the Midwest
Division lead.

The Hawks took control after halftime. Actually, they scored the
last five points of the second quarter for a 58-55 lead, then blew
away the Nuggets with an 18-2 spurt to start the third quarter.

Denver didn't even bother with defense. Ratliff had three dunks
and Boris Diaw finished the game-deciding spurt with another slam,
giving the Hawks a 76-57 lead with 6½ minutes left in the third.

"Defensively, we have been horrible," Jon Barry said. "We got
our offense cranked up the last few games, but we forgot about the
other end."

Atlanta easily eclipsed its highest-scoring game of the season,
103 points in a loss to Clippers last month. The Hawks were
averaging just 90.3 points per game, 19th in the NBA.

Terry tried to change his team's luck, taking off his familiar
headband in the first quarter. It seemed to work -- he also had a
season-high 11 assists and came up with four steals.

"I shed the headband," Terry said. "It's time to grow up and
win some games."

He was clearly enjoying himself at the end, spinning behind a
pick from Abdur-Rahim and going in for an emphatic dunk. Terry drew
a technical for doing a pull-up on the rim, but no one on the
Atlanta bench seemed to mind.

"I told Boris before the game that my legs were back," Terry
said. "I told him to pass me the ball and I would dunk it for him.
Boris had been telling me, 'I've never seen you dunk.'"

Voshon Lenard led the Nuggets with 25 points, but Denver
couldn't overcome the lackluster defensive effort. The Hawks shot a
season-best 54.8 percent (46-of-84), getting a staggering 68 points
in the lane.

For good measure, the Hawks also outrebounded the Nuggets 48-39
despite going with a small lineup much of the game.

"When they're scoring and getting all those rebounds," Andre
Miller said, "you can't win."
Game notes
Denver rookie Carmelo Anthony shot 5-of-20 to finish with
13 points. ... Magic Johnson attended the game, sitting at
courtside with former Hawks star Dominique Wilkins. ... Rookie
Travis Hansen made his first career start in place of Jackson,
scoring two points in 21 minutes. ... Jackson will rejoin the Hawks
for Wednesday night's game at Memphis. ... Vaughn's previous career
high came two seasons ago, during his first stint with the Hawks.
He played last season with Orlando.