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Nets Looking For Break Vs. Johnson-less Hawks

(Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

(Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

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ATLANTA (AP) — Coming off a victory over a division rival and one of the NBA’s top teams, the Atlanta Hawks hope to avoid a letdown against one of the league’s weaker clubs.

The Hawks look to continue their success without injured star Joe Johnson and avenge an earlier defeat to the struggling New Jersey Nets on Tuesday night at Philips Arena.

After its five-game winning streak was snapped with a 12-point loss at Miami on Saturday, Atlanta (14-8) bounced back with an 80-74 win Monday at Southeast Division-leading Orlando.

The Hawks are 3-1 without Johnson, who could be sidelined at least three more weeks after undergoing elbow surgery Thursday.

“We know that without Joe we have to do things a little different,” coach Larry Drew said. “We’re running less isolation plays and maybe becoming a little less predictable.

“We’re a team that has to play with a rhythm that benefits us.”

Josh Smith had 19 points with 13 rebounds, Al Horford added 16 points with 10 boards and Jamal Crawford scored 15 points Monday as the Hawks overcame 38.8-percent shooting with another strong defensive outing.

Atlanta, which has allowed 89.1 points per game over its last seven contests, held the Magic to 37.8 percent shooting – including 4 of 22 from 3-point range.

The Hawks didn’t play nearly as well on the defensive end during a 107-101 overtime loss at New Jersey on Nov. 23, which preceded their current stretch of six wins in seven games. The Nets shot 47.5 percent and matched the Hawks with 46 points in the paint.

Crawford had 21 points and Smith added 20, but Atlanta was outscored 14-8 in overtime.

Though New Jersey (6-15) played well in that contest, it has since dropped six of seven, including the last four. The Nets also have lost seven in a row on the road, where they are 2-9 this season. They will try to avoid a fourth consecutive loss at Atlanta.

New Jersey’s latest defeat came at home, 100-75 to Boston on Sunday.

Two days after shooting 31.9 percent in a 91-84 overtime loss at Charlotte, the Nets made 37.5 percent of their shots while posting their lowest point total of the season against the Celtics.

“They took it to us,” coach Avery Johnson said. “We were on our heels the whole game.”

Brook Lopez and Devin Harris average a combined 35.8 points but were held to 12 total points versus Boston. The pair totaled 59 points on 21-of-36 shooting against the Hawks last month.

Harris, who returned Sunday after missing the previous two games with a knee strain, has averaged 22.8 points in his last four contests at Atlanta. The 7-foot Lopez, however, has averaged 12.8 in those games.

After a strong practice Monday, Harris believes the Nets are ready to face their first challenge on a brief two-game trip.

“It was a good, physical practice for us and a good way to start the road trip,” Harris told the Nets’ official website.

The Hawks have averaged 118.0 points on 54.0-percent shooting during their three-game home winning streak against New Jersey.

© 2010 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.

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