With Josh Smith healthy, the Atlanta Hawks are close to full strength and hoping to recapture their early season form.The New York Knicks, meanwhile, are desperately in need of reinforcements.
The struggling Knicks, who've allowed more than 100 points in 11 straight games, may finally get some help on Friday when they visit Atlanta on the heels of a 36-point loss.
In his return after missing 12 straight games with a sprained ankle, Smith scored 14 points and added six rebounds and five assists in 28 minutes on Wednesday, sparking the Hawks (11-6) to a 105-95 win over Memphis.
"He spreads the floor and then when he gets the rebound he brings it up, and we were able to penetrate and make plays," Atlanta guard Joe Johnson said. "I think it makes us a tougher team to defend."
Smith also seems to make the Hawks better defensively. In his three full games before suffering the injury - all victories - Atlanta's opponents averaged 84.0 points and shot under 40 percent from the field. Smith had a double-double in each of the three games.
Those wins were part of the Hawks' 6-0 start, but they haven't won three in a row since. They'll have a chance to change that on Friday at home, where they've won four straight and nine of 10 dating to the first-round playoff series against Boston last spring.
Against the Grizzlies, Johnson had 26 points on 10-of-15 shooting, while point guard Mike Bibby added 20 points and 10 assists as the Hawks shot 56.3 percent from the floor.
Things don't figure to be any tougher against the Knicks, who've lost seven of nine, allowing 114.6 points per game over that span.
New York (8-10) lost 118-82 at Cleveland on Wednesday, opening a stretch of seven of eight games on the road with its most lopsided defeat of the season. After guard Quentin Richardson was ejected in the first half following a pair of technical fouls, the injury-riddled Knicks were left with seven healthy players in their rotation.
"This is the thing you run into when you run into a good team without any gas in your tank and it showed," New York coach Mike D'Antoni said. "Things just unraveled."
The Knicks have already traded away top scorers Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford, while Stephon Marbury remains away from the team and newly acquired guard Cuttino Mobley hasn't played due to heart-related concerns. Eddy Curry and Danilo Gallinari are out with injuries.
New York, however, is hoping to get a pair of players back on Friday. Nate Robinson could return after missing the last four games with a strained groin, while Jared Jeffries could make his first appearance of the season after suffering a broken left fibula Oct. 2.
"It's just a learning process for us," forward Al Harrington told the Knicks' official Web site. "We got to realize that we have to just play through adversity and that type of stuff builds character. We just have to move on and try to win on Friday."
The Knicks were swept in last season's series by Atlanta, losing all four meetings in a 43-day span from Feb. 29-April 11. The Hawks averaged 109.5 points in the victories, led by 26.8 per game from Johnson.