Atlanta (22-28) at Los Angeles (35-17)

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  • Game info: 10:30 pm EST Tue Feb 19, 2008
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The Atlanta Hawks hope the addition of Mike Bibby will help lead them to their first playoff appearance in nine seasons.

The veteran point guard could make his debut for the Hawks Tuesday night when they resume a stretch of road games with a matchup against a banged-up Kobe Bryant and the surging Los Angeles Lakers.

Atlanta (21-28) acquired Bibby from Sacramento on Saturday for Anthony Johnson, 2007 first-round pick Shelden Williams, Tyronn Lue, Lorenzen Wright and a 2008 second-round selection.

Bibby, who is averaging 16.7 points during his 10-year career, averaged 13.5 points and 5.0 assists in 15 games for the Kings this season. Though he missed the first 36 games while recovering from thumb surgery, the Hawks believe Bibby can provide scoring help for All-Star Joe Johnson, who’s averaging a team-leading 20.6 points.

“There’s another option now,” Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said. “It’ll be like a one-two punch in the backcourt.

“I think it’s a good move or us to get a guy who’s run a team for many years. It’s an opportunity to put a stamp on our team.”

Woodson also hopes Bibby’s 51 games of postseason experience will benefit rising stars Josh Smith, Marvin Williams and Josh Childress down the stretch as the Hawks continue to fight for a playoff spot.

Atlanta is in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, but percentage points out of the seventh spot. The Hawks haven’t been to the playoffs since the 1998-99 season.

“I think Bibby will be one of the top three point guards in the East,” said Michael Gearon Jr., one of the Hawks’ owners. “He’s capable of going one-on-one, hitting clutch shots, breaking defenses and leading this team.”

Bibby’s also played well against Los Angeles (35-17), averaging 18.5 points and 5.6 assists in 35 games versus the Lakers. He averaged 24.0 points in four games against them in 2006-07.

Bibby won’t have to wait long to face his former Sacramento team as Atlanta visits the Kings on Wednesday, the third game of six in a row on the road for the Hawks.

Atlanta ended the first half of the season with its season high-tying fourth straight loss, 100-98 in overtime at Charlotte on Wednesday. Joe Johnson had 23 points after being held to a combined 19 in consecutive losses to Houston and Detroit.

Johnson played 13 minutes and scored three points for the East in its 134-128 All-Star game victory Sunday in New Orleans.

While Atlanta expects to have Bibby on the court Tuesday, Los Angeles hopes Bryant will be able to play at his usual elite level since aggravating his dislocated pinkie finger after scoring 29 points in Wednesday’s 117-92 win at Minnesota.

A Los Angeles doctor that examined Bryant recommended surgery, but last season’s All-Star game MVP hopes to play through it. He played almost three minutes and did not score in Sunday’s All-Star game.

“My current thinking is to give my finger some treatment and rest for a few days, and hope I can still continue to compete at a high level after that rest,” Bryant said in a statement.

“I would prefer to delay any surgical procedure until after our Lakers season, and this summer’s Olympic Games. But this is an injury that myself and the Lakers medical staff will just have to continue to monitor on a day-to-day basis.”

Bryant doesn’t want to sit out as the Lakers return from the break looking to win their fifth in a row. Los Angeles is third in the Western Conference and 1 1/2 games back of first-place Phoenix in the Pacific Division.

The victory over Minnesota capped a 7-2 road trip for the Lakers, who improved to 5-1 with Pau Gasol in the lineup since he was acquired from Memphis.

“We have an amazing team, great players here and a great coaching staff,” said Gasol, who is averaging 20.5 points and 8.3 rebounds for the Lakers. “It’s just another level, a level I haven’t had a chance to experience in my career.”

Gasol has averaged just 12.5 points, but has grabbed 8.5 rebounds in two games versus Atlanta this season.

The Hawks won 98-95 at home over Los Angeles on Feb. 6 in the teams’ most recent meeting.

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Tuesday, Feb 19