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Charlotte Bobcats Vs. Atlanta Hawks: Joe Johnson Comes Back Early, Leads Hawks To 90-85 Win Over Bobcats

The Atlanta Hawks had a miserable week on the court. In walked Joe Johnson to the rescue.

Johnson -- yes Johnson -- posted 16 points in his first game back since undergoing right elbow surgery just over two weeks ago to lead the Hawks to a 90-85 win over the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday night at Philips Arena. Marvin Williams and Al Horford also had 16 for Atlanta which sure as heck didn't expect to have their All-Star shooting guard back so soon.

"I think it gives some inspiration, Johnson told reporters afterward. "I was supposed to be more than two weeks, at the earliest a month out a month. I was able to come back in two weeks. Just to show these guys, we're in this together."

Johnson was expected to miss the rest of 2010 after undergoing surgery on Dec. 2 to repair loose bodies around his injured right elbow. But this week he began what appeared to be a slow return to NBA basketball by taking some shots on practice on Monday. Johnson was chomping at the bit to return to action, tossing up 150 or so shots a day while keeping in game condition by running on a treadmill while the Hawks struggled on the road this week.

Atlanta's poor play against the Detroit Pistons and Boston Celtics made him even hungrier to return.

The Atlanta guard was cleared to play moments before tipoff, shocking almost everyone -- the fans, his coach, his fellow teammates.

"I didn't believe him at all when he told me he was going to play," Williams told the AP. "I mean, c'mon, the man just had elbow surgery."

The Hawks lead throughout this one, but never were able to really put the struggling Bobcats away. Charlotte cut the lead to 82-79 late, but Williams restored order with one second left on the 24 second clock with 1:15 remaining.

Boris Diaw and D.J. Augustin had 22 points each for the Bobcats, who dropped their eighth straight road game.

Josh Smith had 12 points and 11 boards and Mike Bibby added 10 for Atlanta, who won its sixth straight home game despite playing its second straight without reigning Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.