ATLANTA (AP) - The Atlanta Hawks are trying for a more balanced scoring attack with star Joe Johnson out for at least a month following right elbow surgery.
It sure worked out well Tuesday night.
Josh Smith scored a season-high 34 points, leading the streaking Hawks to a 116-101 victory over the New Jersey Nets.
Atlanta made 60 percent of its shots and had 34 assists - both season highs - while improving to 4-1 since Johnson went down. The Hawks have won seven of eight overall.
``We know that anybody can lead our team in scoring on any given night, and we're OK with that,' said Jamal Crawford, who had a season-high 26 points.
Added Smith: ``We're just trying to hold down the fort until Joe returns.'
Smith, accurate with his outside jumper and inside game, made 14 of 16 shots from the field. When it was over, he blew kisses to the crowd.
Al Horford added 24 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for the Hawks.
Brook Lopez led New Jersey with 24 points. Devin Harris had 18 points and 13 assists and Jordan Farmar scored 16.
New Jersey has lost eight consecutive road games and five straight overall.
``We just couldn't score and we couldn't stop them from scoring,' Harris said.
``We put ourselves in a position where you've got to play perfectly to come back and we didn't do that.'
Nets coach Avery Johnson said his team played better than it did in Sunday's 100-75 home loss to Boston.
``We had much better fight in us,' Johnson said. ``I know statistically, with them shooting 60 percent from the field and the amount of points we gave up, it doesn't look good, but I thought our effort was much better tonight than it was on Sunday.
``Our guys tried. Unfortunately, we played a better team tonight.'
Smith, one of the NBA's top shot blockers and dunkers, has shifted from power forward to small forward for two straight games. Center Jason Collins made his second straight start, giving the Hawks a big lineup with Horford moving from center to power forward, Smith at small forward and Marvin Williams at shooting guard.
Smith, who made each of his two 3-point attempts, flourished in the new role. He also had seven assists and blocked two shots.
Smith had 19 points and 13 rebounds in Atlanta's 80-74 win at Orlando on Monday night. Coach Larry Drew said he was worried about an emotional letdown against the Nets, but Smith said the Hawks were determined to build off the win over the Magic.
``Being able to get that win didn't mean anything if we weren't able to come here and hold home-court advantage,' Smith said.
Harris said the Nets ``kind of lost Crawford' while defending Smith.
``He was just making his jump shots tonight,' Harris said of Smith. ``Sometimes we played good defense and they still made shots. Sometimes you're going to have nights like that.'
The Nets led 44-40 before the Hawks closed the first half with a 20-3 run for a 60-47 halftime lead. Atlanta stretched the lead to 16 in the third but had to hold off New Jersey in the final period.
A 3-pointer by former Georgia Tech star Anthony Morrow with 3:25 remaining cut Atlanta's lead to 102-97. Horford answered with back-to-back baskets for Atlanta.
NOTES: Rookie F Derrick Favors had four points in his return to his native Atlanta. He was the Nets' No. 3 overall draft pick out of Georgia Tech. ... Drew said before the game he instructed Collins to ``bang, rebound and foul,' and Collins was on the bench with two fouls less than 5 minutes into the game. He fouled out with 2:16 remaining. ... The Hawks made 67 percent of their shots while outscoring the Nets 33-21 in the second period. ... Smith set his career high with 38 points at Milwaukee on Nov. 17, 2007.
The Associated Press News Service
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