There's a bit of folklore beginning to buzz around the Atlanta Hawks locker room. That almost unidentifiable man with that black headband around his face, comes to the arena and has one of his best days as a Hawk. His team rolls.
Yep Hawks fans -- you all know that you had to look twice when you first pried eyes on Joe Johnson's mug on Tuesday. That headband didn't quite look right. But after you post 36, don't look for Johnson to be playing with anything other than that exact headband anytime soon. His teammates simply won't let him change his wardrobe.
Johnson and the Hawks return to the scene of the crime one day later to take on the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday evening at Philips Arena (7:00 p.m., SportSouth, 97.9 FM).
They just hope that things go as well against the Nuggets as they did against the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday. The Hawks gored the Bucks with a resounding 110-85 victory behind an impressive night from Johnson. Atlanta's All-Star was impressive from the get-go in that one, connecting on his first six 3-point attempts before ultimately finishing one point below his season high and six below his career high of 42.
Johnson, who was sporting the aforementioned headband due to cover up sutures from a minor skin procedure, scored 28 first half points and helped ignite a 20-0 Hawks run bridging the first and second quarters that put this one away early. Atlanta was comfortably enough ahead in the fourth that all of the Hawks' starters -- including Johnson -- were able to rest for most of the frame ahead of Wednesday's game.
Atlanta will take on a Denver team that has historically struggled here. The Nuggets have dropped three straight and 18 of 20 in Georgia's capital city.
Nevertheless, these Nuggets look nothing like last year's incarnation -- they look more like the New York Knicks West as New York's basketball team shipped about every piece of "depth" and a boatload of draft picks to the Mile High City when it acquired Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups in that post All-Star Game blockbuster deal.
Look for familiar faces Wilson Chandler and Raymond Felton to suit up alongside known Nuggets Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith and Nene Hilario. Former Knick Danilo Gallinari is also on the club, but is day-to-day with a fractured big left toe. (And I didn't forget about that other big "linchpin" of the deal -- Timofey Mozgov -- but the Nuggets may have. He hasn't played that much).
The Nuggets took care of business the last time these two clubs met, posting a 100-90 win at the Pepsi Center on Feb. 28. But that loss could be attributed to two things: Atlanta making the rarely-if-ever successful Portland-to-Denver back-to-back trip and the absence of an injured Josh Smith. Smith
missed injured his knee in that one and did not play the second half.
The Hawks actually played with the Nuggets for three quarters, but couldn't overcome fatigue and injury in that one, despite getting 21 points and 16 rebounds from Al Horford.
This one should be a whole different ballgame with a healthy Hawks team that is playing some pretty good basketball.