ATLANTA — Any sign of progress, however modest, is appreciated by the Atlanta Hawks, who have missed the playoffs eight straight years, the longest streak in the NBA.
Here's one modest step up for the Hawks: For the first time, they won't lose a season series to the Charlotte Bobcats.
Joe Johnson scored 31 points, Marvin Williams had 20 and the Hawks beat the Bobcats 93-84 on Saturday night, giving Charlotte its eighth road loss in nine games.
The Hawks are 2-0 against the Bobcats this year after losing three of four games in the Southeast rivalry in each of Charlotte's first three years in the league.
Another small step: The Hawks (11-12) reached 11 wins at an earlier date than any season since their last playoff appearance in 1998-99.
The Hawks won despite playing without sixth man Josh Childress (groin) and rookie point guard Acie Law (sore knee).
"We had to grind it out," said Josh Smith, who had 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Smith noted undrafted rookie Mario West, who played 19 minutes, played point guard behind starter Anthony Johnson, who had 11 points and seven assists.
The Hawks also were without guards Salim Stoudamire, Tyronn Lue and Speedy Claxton.
"It was a collective effort," Smith said. "We didn't make any excuse. We played hard, played together and played smart."
Hawks coach Mike Woodson praised his starters, who carried most of the load.
"You hold guys accountable to step up in cases like this," Woodson said. "I thought our starters were unbelievable tonight to hold that team to 84 points."
Gerald Wallace led Charlotte with 24 points but wasn't satisfied.
"I didn't do enough," Wallace said. "We still lost. I take responsibility for that, being one of the leaders of the team."
The Bobcats have lost 10 of 12 games after a 6-4 start.
"Right now we're all talk," Wallace said. "We're doing nothing on the court."
Johnson made 5 of 9 3-point shots.
"He's a great player," Wallace said before adding "Everybody knocks down shots against us."
Charlotte coach Sam Vincent said Johnson "demands so much attention, you have to try to contain him."
"Our guys made an effort to defend him, but he is one of those exceptional players," Vincent said.
Raymond Felton had 15 points for Charlotte. Emeka Okafor had 14 points and 14 rebounds and Jason Richardson had 11.
Hawks backup forward Shelden Williams played only 2 minutes and did not score only hours after having his 2008 Chrysler stolen at gunpoint by two men. The suspects were arrested later Saturday by Douglasville police near Atlanta.
Williams made his first appearance in the game with 21 seconds left in the third quarter. He did not speak with reporters after the game.
Center Nazr Mohammed, acquired by Charlotte from Detroit on Friday, had back-to-back baskets as Charlotte cut Atlanta's lead from 16 points to single digits at 81-73 with 6:35 left.
The Bobcats again trailed by 8 at 85-77 following a basket by Felton with 3:40 left.
Johnson ended the comeback hopes by sinking a fallaway jumper and a long 3-pointer on back-to-back possessions, pushing the lead to 90-77.
Each team relied heavily on its starters. The Hawks' reserves scored only six points, including five by Zaza Pachulia. Charlotte's backups had only 13 points.
Mohammed made his first appearance for the Bobcats in the second quarter. Mohammed has played for six teams, including Atlanta, in his nine-year career.
Vincent said Mohammed would play a limited role as he adjusts to his new teammates.
"He's still getting up to speed," Vincent said before the game. "We've heard nothing but great things about him. He's a solid veteran. It's one more piece to get us where we're trying to go."