Atlanta (13-23) looks to match a season high with its fourth win in a row when it meets the injury-riddled Charlotte Bobcats (12-25) at Philips Arena on Friday in a matchup of the Southeast Division’s two weakest teams.
This also is the start of a home-and-home series. The teams will play again in Charlotte on Saturday.
The Hawks won four in a row from Nov. 3-10, but then dropped 22 of 28 before its current run.
Atlanta has been hampered by injuries throughout the season, but recently got Josh Smith and Josh Childress back in the lineup. Smith missed eight games from Dec. 23-Jan. 10 after undergoing back surgery that was expected to keep him out for up to six weeks while Childress returned on Dec. 27 after a 19-game absence due to a broken left foot
Marvin Williams, the second overall pick in the 2005 draft, made his season debut Dec. 8 after missing the first five weeks of the season with a broken left hand.
The trio combined for 39 points to go along with 29 from Johnson in a 105-88 win over Minnesota on Wednesday.
“Josh Smith, Joe Johnson, Josh Childress and Marvin Williams, this is the third time that they have had the chance to play together all season long and it makes a big difference,” Hawks coach Mike Woodson said.
Smith’s return coincided with the Hawks’ current winning streak. He had just five points in a 99-93 win over Detroit on Friday, but has averaged 19.5 points in wins over Boston and the Timberwolves.
“We’ve kind of got a feel for what each other likes to do,” said Smith, who averages 13.1 points per game and has 11 double-doubles this season. “It’s good to be back in the paint, changing shots so it is not just easy lay-ups.”
Johnson had a season-high 36 points in Atlanta’s 99-90 home win over Charlotte on Nov. 29. The Hawks have won only three of nine all-time meetings from the Bobcats.
Charlotte, meanwhile, will try to match a franchise record with its third straight road win last set from April 9-17, but will have to do so without three key players. Gerald Wallace (separated shoulder), Brevin Knight (abdominal surgery) and Sean May (knee) missed Charlotte’s 92-85 home loss to New Jersey on Wednesday.
With the trio missing, the Bobcats cut a 23-point third-quarter deficit to seven, but were unable to complete the comeback and lost their second consecutive game.
“We came out with a lot of energy in the second half,” the Bobcats’ Emeka Okafor said on the team’s official Web site. “We started playing hard, especially on the defensive end. When we started doing that, everything pretty much took care of itself.”
Okafor grabbed 21 rebounds and added 14 points in the loss and is averaging 14.6 points and 11.3 rebounds per game this season. In the loss to the Hawks in November, though, he managed just four points and no rebounds in 17 minutes.