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Johnson strong as Hawks top Cavs

Joe Johnson's first game with 20 points in almost a month helped the Atlanta Hawks recover from a sluggish start against the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers.

Joe Johnson's first game with 20 points in almost a month helped the Atlanta Hawks recover from a sluggish start against the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers.

Johnson scored 23 points in his best game since his return from surgery on his right elbow to lead the Hawks past Antawn Jamison and the Cavaliers, 98-84, last night.

Johnson missed nine games after the surgery and then struggled to regain his form in his first three games back in action.

"Joe came back without any practices, and he finally found the stroke," Atlanta's Josh Smith said. "He played lights out tonight."

Johnson reached 20 points for the first time since scoring 21 in a win over Washington on Nov. 25.

The Hawks, coming off an emotional home win over Orlando on Monday night, led by only three points at halftime.

Led by Johnson, the Hawks pushed the lead to 13 points with a strong start in the second half.

Jamison had 23 points but the Hawks were stronger with their typically balanced attack in their eighth straight home victory.

Al Horford had 18 points, Marvin Williams added 17 and Smith had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Hawks. Mo Williams had 18 points and Daniel Gibson added 12 for Cleveland. The Cavaliers have lost 12 straight on the road and 12 of 13 overall.

Johnson hit consecutive three-pointers midway through the fourth quarter to push Atlanta's lead to 13 points at 91-78.

"I could be 6-9 and you're not going to stop those shots," Gibson said. "Those were tough shots. He just got it going and got the separation they needed. You can't guard guys like that individually. It's more of a team effort."

Johnson has played four games since missed nine games recovering from surgery.

"I got into a little rhythm in the fourth quarter," Johnson said. "I hadn't been feeling that rhythm."

Johnson was initially expected to be out 4 to 6 weeks, but he returned less than 3 weeks after the procedure to remove loose cartilage in his shooting elbow.

"I still can't extend all the way," Johnson said, referring to his right arm. "But I can come out with a free mind."

In other games:

* At Toronto, Richard Hamilton scored a season-high 35 points, Rodney Stuckey had 21 and the Detroit Pistons beat the Raptors, 115-93.

* At Washington, Carlos Boozer scored 30 points and Derrick Rose added 25 to help the Chicago Bulls beat the Wizards, 87-80, for their ninth victory in 10 games.

* At New York, Amare Stoudemire scored 23 points, Wilson Chandler added 21, and the Knicks beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, 112-98, to snap a three-game losing streak.

* At Minneapolis, Al Jefferson had 23 points, 11 rebounds and seven blocks against his former team and Jerry Sloan moved into sole possession of third place on the career victories list in the Utah Jazz's 112-107 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

* At New Orleans, Emeka Okafor had 21 points and 10 rebounds, and the Hornets beat the New Jersey Nets, 105-91, to snap a two-game skid. Chris Paul added 12 points and 14 assists for New Orleans.

* At San Antonio, Manu Ginobili and Gary Neal scored 22 points apiece, and the Spurs won their 10th in a row, 109-103 over the Denver Nuggets, who were without All-Star Carmelo Anthony because of a death in his family.