Daily Confidential

Atlanta's Joe Johnson has been picking up his offensive production - and getting some help from the Hawks' top reserve.

Johnson and Tyronn Lue look to continue their scoring surge as the Hawks (6-7) host the Cleveland Cavaliers (9-6) on Friday night.

Johnson scored a season-high 36 points in Atlanta's 99-90 win over Charlotte on Wednesday. The 6-foot-7 guard, who was six points shy of the career high he set March 7, was coming off a 33-point performance in Tuesday's loss at Washington.

``I was just taking pretty much what the defense gave me,'' Johnson said. ``I just got into a rhythm where I just started feeling it. They gave me a lot of jump shots. They took away the 3 and I was trying to drive the paint, get the easy shots.''

Johnson is averaging 27.8 points this season after posting a career-high 20.2 last season for the Hawks.

``He was just feeling it. He hit a couple of jump shots, then it opened up from there,'' teammate Josh Smith said. ``He couldn't miss. Joe is Joe, he's an outstanding player and he's a leader and captain of this team.''

After Wednesday's victory, however, the first player coach Mike Woodson praised was Lue.

``Thank God for Tyronn Lue,'' he said. ``He gives it everything he's got every night he steps on the floor.

``He's an ultimate pro, man. He takes his job very seriously and the results are right there in front of you. His teammates love playing with him. I gotta get a few more guys playing like Tyronn.''

Lue scored 25 points against the Bobcats, including 10 in the fourth quarter to help hold off a Charlotte rally. He was coming off an 18-point effort against the Wizards.

``He hits a lot of big shots for us, and he comes through. That's what he did,'' Smith said. ``He knocked down some jump shots to kind of seal the game up.''

The Hawks started the season 4-1, but have since dropped six of eight. Atlanta, which opens a five-game trip Sunday against Portland, has lost three straight road games.

``It feels good to get a win. We'll try to get another one on Friday so we can get to .500 going to the West Coast (road trip),'' Smith said.

Cleveland star LeBron James has scored at least 25 points in each of his last four games, and had 27 in Wednesday's 101-98 loss to the New York Knicks. However, James, averaging 27.5 points this season, made just 10 of 22 shots.

``We had wide-open shots,'' James said. ``They just didn't fall.''

Cleveland shot 45.2 percent (38-for-84) from the floor.

The Cavs have dropped four of their last six games and three straight on the road.

Cleveland has won nine of its last 11 against Atlanta, but lost the last matchup 104-95 in overtime Nov. 7. James had 34 points, while Johnson scored 25 in the teams' first meeting of the season.

Copyright 2006 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited