ATLANTA, April 1- Joe Johnson scored 25 points for Atlanta Wednesday as the Hawks handed the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers their second straight defeat – 109-92.
Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant scored 28 points but only eight in the second half as Los Angeles lost back-to-back games for just the fourth time this season.
The Lakers, who won twice on their five-game road trip, missed out on a chance to clinch the Pacific Division title.
The Hawks came into the night tied with Boston for the third seed in the Eastern Conference.
But their ninth straight home win, coupled with Boston’s 109-104 loss to Oklahoma City saw the Celtics fall out of the tie for third.
Johnson hit five three-pointers but Atlanta’s reserves also came up big.
Jamal Crawford scored 14 points, Maurice Evans had 18 and the Hawks’ reserves outscored the Lakers bench 48-22, also getting a double-double from Zaza Pachulia.
The Hawks took the lead for good on Crawford’s three-pointer with 1:35 left in the first quarter. They extended the gap to 55-45 by halftime and were never threatened in the second half.
Bryant came out of the game with 2 1/2 minutes remaining.
But the visit of the reigning NBA champs drew a rare full-house in Atlanta.
The Lakers were still without forward Luke Walton, but Lakers coach Phil Jackson said Walton, who is nursing a pinched nerve in his back, hopes to play Sunday.
However, Los Angeles could be without center Andrew Bynum (Achilles strain) for another 10 days.