As word circulated that the long and bitter ownership dispute between the Atlanta Spirit and former owner Steve Belkin had been settled, something happened with the Atlanta Hawks and the center of that dispute. The Hawks went on a bit of a run as Joe Johnson soared.
Johnson posted 23 points, dished seven assists and grabbed five boards and Al Horford added 18 points to lead the Hawks to a 98-84 win over the struggling Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night at Philips Arena.
"Here at home, we're starting to figure it out," Johnson said. "It was a total team effort. Our bench picked us up when our energy was low. We were able to finish it off."
The Cavs (8-21) on the other hand have struggled miserably on the highway, dropping 12 straight games away from the Quicken Loans Arena. Cleveland is one away from matching a streak of 13 straight road losses from Oct. 29-Dec. 15, 2003, set in LeBron James' rookie season.
Atlanta on the other hand hopes that it's good times ahead for Johnson. It was the trade of the Atlanta forward to the Hawks that sparked the split between owners five-plus years ago. And on the night of the settlement, Johnson had his best game since returning from right elbow surgery, connecting on 9-of-17 from the field en route to notching his first 20-plus points game since returning to the lineup.
The Hawks shook off a sluggish first quarter, where they trailed by five going into the second 12 minutes of basketball before perking up in the second. The Hawks opened the quarter with a 19-5 run to take a nine point lead thanks, in part, to Johnson.
The Atlanta shooting guard gave the Hawks a seven point edge with a 3-pointer with 5:11 left in the frame before capping the run with a driving layup to post Atlanta to a 36-27 lead with 4:50 left in the second quarter. Cleveland cut the lead to as little as two late in the second, but Johnson and Atlanta had the answer, leading by as many as 13 before Smith drained a jumper with 44.4 seconds left for the final margin of victory.
"I kind of got into a little rhythm in the third or fourth quarter and took advantage of it," Johnson said. "I haven't really been feeling that rhythm pretty much all season for whatever reason. Tonight, it felt pretty good."
Antawn Jamison had 23 points for Cleveland, which faces Atlanta one more time this season.