Originally written on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 10/20/14
ATLANTA -- This was a tale of two homecomings, but with only one story of redemption. On the night of Joe Johnson's ballyhooed return to Atlanta, the Hawks stole the spotlight by racing out to a big lead and cruising to a 109-95 win over the Brooklyn Nets at Philips Arena. Even with Josh Smith serving a one-game suspension on Wednesday night (conduct detrimental to the team), the Hawks had little trouble finding a rhythm against the Nets -- boasting six players with double-digit scoring and shooting nearly 60 percent from the field (45 of 78). Jeff Teague took honors in scoring and assists, rolling for 28 and 11 against the Nets. However, center Zaza Pachulia (13 points, 11 rebounds) garnered the most attention in the postgame media scrum, finishing only two assists shy of his first career triple-double. "We've been around long enough to know when we play this way, good things happen," said Pachulia, who collected eight of the Hawks' 33 assists. "We needed this (victory) desperately." Officially for the Hawks (22-16), this was a chance to earn back-to-back home wins. Unofficially, this was an opportunity to show Johnson -- an Atlanta staple of seven seasons (2005-12) -- how much they have evolved, up-tempo wise, since he joined the Nets last summer via trade. Johnson (15 points) connected on just four of 15 shots, the result of contested jumpers and plannedunplanned traps from the Hawks' spirited defense. The random traps of Johnson "made us aggressive. It made us active," said Hawks head coach Larry Drew, while also acknowledging the mental grind his team has endured in recent weeks. That stress may have reached a tipping point just two nights ago, when Atlanta scored a season-low 58 points and incurred a 39-point road drubbing to the Derrick Rose-less Bulls. In the lackluster loss, only reserve Mike Scott scored in double figures. "All teams go through these (slumps)," said Drew. "You just have weather the storm." With the NFL's Falcons on the brink of hosting their first conference title game Sunday, the Hawks might have caught a break, attention-wise, with Monday's meltdown. On Wednesday, the boisterous Philips crowd of 15,029 didn't seem worried by the prospect of another subpar outing. And the Hawks rewarded that faith (or short-term memory loss) by pouncing on the Nets from the outset. Atlanta bolted to a seven-point advantage after the first quarter (27-20), thanks to 11-of-19 shooting and aggressive fast breaks from Teague and Devin Harris (18 points, five assists). The second quarter was an extension of the first, with the Hawks forging a 7-0 spurt in the first 77 seconds and then maintaining leads of 14 and 16 points for a vast majority of the half. The quarter's best sequence: For starters, Harris collected a long defensive rebound, speed-dribbled to half-court and then fired a hard bounce pass to Teague, who glided for a layup -- in traffic. On the next possession, big man Ivan Johnson (eight points, three boards) threw down a thunderous dunk. As a capper, Harris then went coast-to-coast, off a long rebound, before converting an and-one layup (missed free throw). The Hawks' third quarter was awash in fast breaks and mounting leads, as well. For one spurt, Pachulia grabbed a rebound and laced a 50-foot outlet pass to Teague, who slammed the ball without incident. A few minutes later, Kyle Korver (11 points) nailed his lone three-pointer of the night. Soon after that, Teague hit Al Horford (17 points, 13 boards) for an alley-oop dunk -- amid a sea of Nets onlookers -- that vaulted Atlanta's lead to a game-high 23 points. All this occurred without Josh Smith, even though he was sorely missed by his coach. "Tonight, we were good, but with Josh ... we're better!" said Drew. The Hawks are certainly a different team without Joe Johnson, a supreme talent but methodical scorer. The new Net was understandably disappointed with his club's play on Wednesday. "(The loss) kind of hurts, because it seems like from the start we just weren't really into it. We knew (the Hawks) weren't going to let me play. We knew they were going to trap every time I caught the ball," said Johnson, who has now scored in double digits for 20 straight games. "We just didn't seem to make the right reads." Johnson encountered a smattering of boos whenever receiving the ball in half-court sets. He even elicited the occasional fan chant of "We don't miss you" during free throws. But as part of that, there was also a palpable feeling that both clubs had moved on from the summertime trade, without much ill will. That notion, however, may be tested on Friday when the Nets (9-2 in their last 11 games) and Hawks complete a rare home-and-home between non-divisional opponents in Brooklyn.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Roger Goodell will have to testify in Ray Rice case

Report: Zach Mettenberger to start for Titans over Locker

LaMarr Woodley likely done for season with biceps injury

Report: Some Seahawks think Wilson isn’t 'black enough'

Darrelle Revis sent home for being late, misses practice

Report: Texas to pay scholarship athletes $10K per year

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Widespread academic fraud occurred at North Carolina

NHL postpones Senators/Leafs game after Ottawa shootings

Lions send player home from London after cutting him

Brandon Marshall on Jay Cutler: We're like brothers

NBA Board of Governors votes against NBA draft lottery reform

Jamaal Charles admits he hid concussion symptoms

WATCH: Giants pitcher yells at Salvador Perez after HR

Kiffin's mom fears for son's safety in return to Tennessee

WATCH: Penguins perform 'O Canada' following tragedy

WATCH: Cutest grandma challenges Dwyane Wade to game of one-on-one

UEFA Champions League midway report: Groups A – D

Report: Expect Florida to make a run at Bob Stoops

Porn star: No one parties harder than Sebastian Janikowski

Outrageous college football predictions: Week 9

World Series Game 2 Preview: Giants vs. Royals

Michigan St. fans troll Michigan campus, paint 'M' green

NFL MVP Watch Week 8: Is Manning still the King?

Fan blows $300 buying hot dogs for his section at World Series

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Kiffin's mom worried for son's safety

Report: Goodell will have to testify

Penguins do 'O Canada' following tragedy

UEFA Champions League midway report: Groups A – D

Porn star: No one parties like Janikowski

Report: Expect Florida to make a run at Bob Stoops

The San Francisco Giants are zombies

10 bold predictions for NFL Week 8

Pitcher's wife leaves generous tip

Nicklaus defends Jameis Winston

NFL players who could be traded by the deadline

Royals fans sleeping during Game 1

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.