Pregame Primer: Nets (23-15) at Atlanta Hawks (21-16), 7:30 P.M.

Tonight at 7:30 p.m., the Nets head south to Philips Arena to take on the Atlanta Hawks.

This will be the first of a home-and-away series between these teams, with the second game tipping off Friday night in Brooklyn.

The Nets have the longest winning streak of any NBA team at seven games, while the Hawks have lost six of seven games.

Gerald Wallace will be a game-time decision as he is still dealing with bruised ribs.

Joe Johnson returns to Atlanta tonight

Joe Johnson returns to Atlanta tonight

Joe Johnson Back in Atlanta

While Joe Johnson has been draining buckets for the Nets lately, his career took off during his seven seasons as a member of the Hawks.

Johnson averaged 20.9 points per game in those seven seasons and was named to six consecutive All-Star Games.

He signed a six-year, $119 million contract in summer 2010 to remain in Atlanta, but the Hawks decided to trade him to the Nets to give the team some financial flexibility.

He’s likely to be welcomed back warmly at least to start the game, but with the Hawks trying to rebound from a rough stretch, Johnson becomes the enemy after the opening tip.

Josh Smith Suspended by Team for One Game

News broke earlier today that Hawks’ forward Josh Smith has been suspended by the team for one game and fined an undisclosed amount for conduct detrimental to the team.

Smith is the Hawks leading scorer this season at 16.5 points per game, and he’s also leading the team in blocks per game at 2.3. He released the following the statement today:

“Clearly I am competitive and was frustrated by our recent losses. I understand and respect the team’s actions and just want to get back on the court to do whatever is necessary to help my teammates. I apologize for letting them down and apologize to our fans for not being available for tonight’s game.”

Hawks Struggling

The Hawks were 10 games over .500 on New Year’s Day, but the team has only won one game in 2013 in seven tries. The last two losses have been particularly painful.

Atlanta suffered a 10-point road loss to the NBA-worst Washington Wizards last Saturday. The team had three quarters of scoring less than 20 points.

In their next contest, the Hawks only scored 58 total points – one more than their franchise low of 57 – in a loss to the Bulls Monday.

Familiar Faces against the Nets

Just like Johnson will be facing his former team, a few Hawks have played for the Nets.

Anthony Morrow, DeShawn Stevenson and Johan Petro were shipped to Atlanta in the Johnson trade. Morrow is shooting 37.8 percent from three-point range – his forte while with the Nets.

Hawks’ point guard Devin Harris was a significant piece of the Nets’ roster from 2007-2011. He was included in the trade that brought Deron Williams to New Jersey. He’s mainly served as the backup this season to Jeff Teague.

Mirza Teltovic Fitting in

Mirza Teletoic had the hot hand from the second he entered last night’s game against the Raptors. He had missed the past two games with the flu but returned with a bang.

He scored 10 points with four rebounds and three assists and also had a block and a steal.

These types of performances will allow him to keep seeing more minutes under P.J. Carlesimo. While his defense still needs work, he’s establishing himself as a valuable source of instant offense off the bench.

Big Three Back at It

The Nets’ “Big Three” – Johnson, Williams and Brook Lopez – combined for 64 points on 21-of-43 shooting in last night’s win.

When these three are all going well on the same night, the Nets are a dangerous team.

With the schedule heating up over the next week, Brooklyn will need a steady output from its top three players.

The action tips off at 7:30 p.m. and can be seen on the YES Network.