MILWAUKEE --- John Salmons simply would not let the Milwaukee Bucks lose.
Salmons scored 16 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter and made the tie-breaking free throws with 21.8 seconds remaining, leading the Bucks to a come-from-behind 98-95 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night in a matchup of possible first-round opponents.
"He played his normal game, but then he got hot and he carried us," Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles said.
Salmons, whom Milwaukee acquired from the Chicago Bulls in February, and Hawks All-Star Joe Johnson went back and forth down the stretch until Salmons put the game away for Milwaukee.
Since Salmons' arrival, he has averaged 19.2 points and the Bucks are 15-2 with him in the lineup.
Salmons scored nine consecutive points midway through the final quarter, including a jumper that gave the Bucks an 89-86 lead with 6:50 left.
The Hawks fought back to tie it at 93 when Johnson hit a jumper with two minutes remaining. After a shot-clock violation against the Bucks, Johnson hit a step-back jumper near the top of the key over Salmons to give the Hawks a 95-93 lead.
Salmons was fouled on a drive to the basket and hit two free throws to tie it at 95.
Johnson missed a shot with 45 seconds remaining. Luke Ridnour then missed but grabbed his own rebound. Salmons was fouled by Johnson and hit both free throws to give the Bucks a 97-95 lead.
Johnson held the ball for the last shot but missed as he drove the lane. Ridnour grabbed the rebound and was fouled. He hit one of two free throws, and Crawford missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Skiles put Bucks forward Luc Mbah a Moute, known for his defense, into the game in the last minute to guard Johnson.
"It's tough (as) he's got all the tricks with the way he was scoring," Mbah a Moute said. "We just tried to make it tough for him, make him take tough shots, and I did that."
Johnson scored 14 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Hawks. Jamal Crawford had 21.