ATLANTA — Joe Johnson says his left knee “feels 15 times better.”
The proof is in his production.
He also had 34 points on Tuesday night at Denver, gaining momentum after missing six games in late February and early March with left knee tendinitis.
“I’m starting to gain the strength back in it,” Johnson said. “I’m able to explode off it a little more and make plays. It’s definitely feeling a lot better.”
Josh Smith had 23 points, eight assists and seven rebounds for the Hawks, who have tweaked their lineup with small forward Marvin Williams missing his second straight game with a sore left hip.
Johnson moved from shooting guard to small forward, while Kirk Hinrich again joined point guard Jeff Teague in the backcourt.
Johnson said he likes playing in the three-guard lineup.
“I like playing a 3 when we’ve got two smaller guys out there who can really penetrate the defense and make plays and guard those little quick guys,” Johnson said. “It’s definitely an advantage for us because now you’ve got three guys out there who can create and make plays for everybody.”
Hawks coach Larry Drew said he may stick with Hinrich as a starter when Williams returns. He said he likes the added quickness in the backcourt, including on defense, and the scoring punch Williams can provide off the bench.
Trevor Booker scored 18 points for the Wizards, who have lost eight straight in Atlanta since 2008.
After trailing 54-50 at halftime, the Hawks took the lead with a 24-8 run that turned a 60-56 deficit in the third quarter into an 80-68 lead less than 3 minutes into the final period.
John Wall had 14 points and nine assists, and Roger Mason added 12 points for the Wizards, who were held to 34 points in the second half.
“We were two totally different teams that first and second half,” said Washington coach Randy Wittman, who said his team played together in the first half but “over-dribbled the ball for whatever reason” in the second.