The Hawks learned earlier in the day that Horford, a leader on and off the court, will miss at least three months after tearing the pectoral muscle in his left shoulder going for a rebound the previous night at Indiana.
Knowing they’ll be expected to take on an even larger load with Horford sidelined, Smith and Johnson came through big time against the hapless Bobcats, who lost their fifth in a row and dropped to 2-9. The Hawks dominated on the boards, outrebounding Charlotte 55-30.
Byron Mullens led the Bobcats with 21 points in his first career start.
Horford’s injury will likely require surgery, stunning a team that has made the playoffs four years in a row and is off to a solid start with wins over Miami and Chicago in the early going.
“I did hear something kind of pop a little bit, so I thought it was something different,” said Horford, who wrenched his shoulder while battling for a rebound with Roy Hibbert on Wednesday night. “I’m still surprised. I thought I was going to be able to rehab it for a couple of weeks and come back.”
Horford will get a second opinion before making the final decision to undergo surgery, but even the most optimistic projection would keep him out until mid-April.
The Hawks final regular-season game is April 26.
“He’s going to certainly be missed,” coach Larry Drew said. “We were starting to mesh. We were starting to jell. I’m hoping our guys will rally around one another.”
Horford was injured with 6:08 remaining in the first quarter of Wednesday’s game. He was averaging 12.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.3 blocks.
GRIZZLIES 94, KNICKS 83
In Memphis, Tenn., Rudy Gay scored a season-high 26 points and the Grizzlies beat New York to end the Knicks’ winning streak at four games.
The Knicks played most of the second half without scoring leader Carmelo Anthony after he sprained his right ankle early in the third period. He didn’t return and X-rays were negative.
Gay made 11 of 16 shots to help the Grizzlies snap a three-game losing streak and improve to 4-6.
Anthony and Bill Walker each scored 14 points to lead the Knicks (6-5). Rookie guard Iman Shumpert, a former Georgia Tech standout, had 12 points, but was 5 of 20 from the field.
BUCKS 102, PISTONS 93
In Milwaukee, Brandon Jennings scored 27 points and Stephen Jackson added 25 to lead the Bucks.
The Bucks improved to 4-0 at home and 4-6 overall.
Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles became the 39th coach in NBA history to reach 400 victories. He is 400-388.
Greg Monroe led the Pistons with a career-high 32 points and had 16 rebounds.