So Smith was pleased to join Marvin Williams and Josh Childress in letting Johnson play 38 quiet minutes.
"That just shows the growth of our team," Smith said. "When our superstar is not having a good night, the three of us can lift the team up."
Williams scored 24 points, Smith and Childress each had 23, and Atlanta ended a three-game losing streak with a 104-92 victory over the New Jersey Nets on Saturday night.
The Hawks, who had dropped seven of eight, used a quick transition game to outscore New Jersey 16-7 on fast-break points in the second half.
"When we run, we’re at our best," Smith said. "We got the lead and we kept the same momentum."
Richard Jefferson led the Nets with 23 points. Reserve forward Bostjan Nachbar finished with 16 as New Jersey had a two-game winning streak snapped and dropped to 2-10 since Jan. 11.
"We just had too many defensive breakdowns tonight, but you have to give the Hawks credit because they played well," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "We just couldn’t seem to close the gap."
The Hawks led by double digits for most of the second half.
With 6:42 remaining, Vince Carter dribbled past Johnson on the left side, but Smith, the NBA’s second-leading shot blocker, deflected the ball off the backboard for an Atlanta rebound.
Ten seconds later, Smith’s finger-roll layup made it 93-80. Childress’ three-point play with 2:21 left pushed the lead to 100-86 after he drove the right side and dunked over Carter.
"Even with the Hawks having all five starters in double figures, it was our lack of effort that caused us to lose tonight," Carter said after scoring 14 points and handing out a season-high 10 assists.
"When you allow a team to score 50-plus points in the paint, it’s going to be difficult to win."
Atlanta, which ended a four-game losing streak against the Nets, was coming off a 1-4 road trip that seemed to sap players’ energy. Childress thought the Hawks benefited from having the last two nights off.
"It’s good to be back home," Childress said.
"We were on the road for 10 days. We made shots and we got anything we wanted pretty much offensively. That led to a lot of layups, dunks and free throws."
Johnson finished with 10 points but Atlanta coach Mike Woodson was pleased to run the offense through Williams, Smith and Childress.
"I don’t think everything is designed for Joe Johnson," Woodson said. "I’ve said this all along, that when Josh Smith, Marvin and Childress play at a level like they did tonight, we’re going to have a great chance at winning games. I thought all three tonight were unbelievable."
New Jersey’s Jason Kidd was just 2-for-9 from the field, but his 10 rebounds moved him into second place on the NBA career list of rebounds by a guard. He began the game with 6,672 rebounds, tied with Michael Jordan, and surpassed Clyde Drexler for second place. Oscar Robertson leads the list with 7,804.Notes: Jason Collins started at center and scored two points in what could be his last game after six years with New Jersey. The Nets are close to completing a trade that would send Collins to Memphis for Stromile Swift. ... Hawks F Shelden Williams, the fifth overall draft pick of 2006, did not play for the second straight game and for the seventh time in 12 games due to a coach’s decision.