The Atlanta Hawks compensated nicely when All-Star Joe Johnson couldn't play. The Charlotte Bobcats haven't been as successful trying to figure out how to make do without Gerald Wallace.The Hawks expect to have Johnson back in the lineup Friday night as they try to take advantage of a Bobcats team that has faltered with Wallace injured.
With Johnson at home due to an illness, Atlanta (28-20) got a 23-point, 10-rebound performance from Marvin Williams in a 94-86 win at Minnesota on Wednesday night.
Hawks coach Mike Woodson said he hoped to have Johnson - the team's leader in scoring, assists and minutes - back for this contest.
Charlotte (19-29) doesn't expect Wallace to return until after this month's All-Star break. The Bobcats' leading scorer with 16.4 points per game, Wallace is recovering from a partially collapsed lung and broken rib suffered in a 117-110 double overtime win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Jan. 27 - the team's only victory on its recently completed five-game road trip.
Charlotte averaged 86.3 points en route to losing its next three games after Wallace went down.
Atlanta has also had to deal with missing top players for lengthy periods. Josh Smith missed 12 games early in the season due to an ankle sprain, and Al Horford (knee) was also out 12 straight before returning against the Timberwolves.
Horford had four points and six rebounds in 24 minutes, and should see his playing time increase in this contest.
Williams helped make up for Horford's limited play and Johnson's absence, and is averaging 17.1 points and 8.4 rebounds in seven straight starts since missing two games with a concussion in January.
"He's been on a nice run ever since that concussion and it's nice to see him step up," Woodson said.
Charlotte could use that same type of boost. Adam Morrison has had trouble filling in for Wallace at small forward, averaging 4.3 points while shooting 35.7 percent.
The Bobcats may decide to move Boris Diaw to that spot and start Juwan Howard at power forward. Howard, though, missed practice Wednesday with a sore toe and his status for this contest is uncertain.
Charlotte did get some good news with rookie point guard D.J. Augustin returning to practice Wednesday.
Augustin has missed 10 straight games with an abdominal injury, but hopes to play Friday. Bobcats coach Larry Brown said Augustin "needs a lot of work" before he regains game shape.
"I'm not in any pain. Just a little bit of tightness from not doing anything," said Augustin, averaging 12.1 points and 4.1 assists while making a team-best 91.6 percent of his free throws. "Hopefully I can get all of that out by this week."
Augustin's return would lessen the burden on starter Raymond Felton, who has played at least 36 minutes in each game since Augustin was hurt. Felton has shown signs of fatigue, scoring less than 10 points in three of four games before finishing with 16 in a 105-86 loss at Utah on Monday night.
Charlotte will likely need to step up offensively to have a chance to extend a five-game home winning streak against the Hawks. The Bobcats are averaging 107.6 points during that run, but have been held to 81.0 in two losses at Atlanta this season.