- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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Joe Johnson makes his return to Atlanta on Wednesday to face the Hawks (21-16) for the first time since being traded to the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets (23-15) will also look to extend their season-high winning streak to eight games.
The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. Here's what we'll be watching for:
ISO JOE IS BACK! Johnson averaged 20.7 points in seven seasons for the Hawks. He was an All-Star for the last six of them. But he was perhaps more known for his $124 million contract and the fact that he never got Atlanta past the second round in five playoff appearances. Whatever. That's history now.
Johnson looks comfortable in his new home and is averaging 20.1 points on 47.8 percent shooting during Brooklyn's seven-game winning streak. Surely he'll be motivated to get this win -- even if he downplayed in Tuesday morning. Wonder whether the crowd will boo him or cheer him. Perhaps a mix.
SHORT-HANDED HAWKS: The Nets caught a break when Atlanta suspended Josh Smith, who leads the team in scoring and blocks, for Wednesday's game because of conduct detrimental to the team.
KEEPING IT UP: The Hawks, once 19-9, are 2-7 in their last nine games. They scored just 20 points in the first half of an embarrassing 97-58 loss to Chicago on Monday night. But they'll be rested and ready to go on Wednesday, and the surging Nets can't afford to take them lightly.
The Nets find themselves just two games behind the Miami Heat for the top spot in the Eastern Conference standings. But they're about to tip off a nine-game stretch in which they play seven teams with winning records; they are just 8-15 against above-.500 teams this season. We're going to find out a lot about this team during this stretch.
STAYING CONFIDENT: Whether you're talking about Deron Williams or Mirza Teletovic, every Net seems to be playing well. They're 9-1 under interim coach P.J. Carlesimo and have developed a deep, talented bench. During the winning streak, they're averaging 108 points per game.