ATLANTA – Joe Johnson scored a season-high 36 points and Charlotte couldn’t overcome the longest field-goal drought to open an NBA game this season, helping the Atlanta Hawks beat the Bobcats 99-90 on Wednesday night.

Johnson missed his first five shots and had only two points in the opening quarter before scoring 22 in the second.

Much of Johnson’s early scoring came at the expense of Bobcats rookie Adam Morrison, who struggled keep up with the Hawks’ veteran. Johnson was 9-of-10 from the field, making all of his three 3-pointers, in the second period.

Morrison, who had scored more than 20 points in three of the last four games, was held to six points, 10 below his average.

The Hawks took a 20-point lead late in the first half and stretched the advantage to 70-46 early in the third quarter.

Charlotte cut the lead to 83-72 at the end of third period and continued the comeback in the final one as veteran Derek Anderson took over the primary defensive assignment on Johnson. Anderson, who signed on Tuesday, was making his first appearance with the team.

The Bobcats pulled within 91-88 before a basket by Johnson sparked the Hawks’ answer. Tyronn Lue, who had 25 points, had two baskets in the final 2 minutes for Atlanta.

Charlotte coach Bernie Bickerstaff said before the game he was tweaking his starting lineup to play small – starting guard Raymond Felton instead of center Primoz Brezec.

The change didn’t provide immediate results, as the Bobcats were 0-for-13 from the field before a jumper by Sean May with 4:07 left in the period.

At one point in the opening quarter, Hawks coach Mike Woodson played three small guards – Lue, Speedy Claxton, and Salim Stoudamire – together to counter Charlotte’s trio of Felton, Brevin Knight and Matt Carroll.

Felton and Sean May each had 21 to lead Charlotte. May, who had 20 points in Charlotte’s win at New Jersey on Tuesday night, set his career high for the second straight game. Knight added 17.

Notes: Before Charlotte’s 0-for-13 start, two teams shared the longest field-goal drought to open a game this season at 0-for-9: Atlanta at Orlando on Saturday and Portland at Minnesota on Nov. 14. … Johnson’s career scoring high is 42 points against Golden State on March 7 last season.

AP-ES-11-29-06 2137EST


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