Hawks fly past Clippers

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Atlanta Hawks' Joe Johnson (2) shoots while defended by Los Angeles Clippers' Cuttino Mobley during the first half.  Associated Press
Associated Press
Atlanta Hawks' Joe Johnson (2) shoots while defended by Los Angeles Clippers' Cuttino Mobley during the first half.

ATLANTA - Eight straight losses are bad enough, but dropping six in a row at home was even more painful for the struggling Atlanta Hawks.

Thanks to one of their top defensive performances, both streaks ended with the Hawks' 86-74 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday night.

Joe Johnson scored 27 points and Zaza Pachulia added 22 as Atlanta won for the first time since a Dec. 15 victory at Memphis. The Hawks won at home for the first time since beating Charlotte on Nov. 29.

Some Hawks players were startled to be reminded it had been so long since they had won at Philips Arena, where they are 5-9. Boston and Philadelphia are the only NBA teams with fewer home wins.

"It was right at the beginning of the year," said Josh Childress of the last home win. "That's a long time."

The overall eight-game skid was Atlanta's longest since losing the first nine games of the 2005-06 season. The Hawks had losing streaks of 13 and 14 games in their 13-win season in 2004-05.

Only four players scored in double figures in the low-scoring game. Elton Brand led the Clippers with 26 points, including 12 in the first quarter, and Tim Thomas had 14.

Brand and Thomas were the only Clippers players to score in the final period. The rest of the team was 0-for-8 from the field in the period, when the Clippers were outscored 22-15.

The 74 points allowed set a new season low for Atlanta. The Hawks had nine steals, including five by Speedy Claxton. The Clippers' 19 turnovers led to 16 points for the Hawks.

"Our defense was solid from beginning to end," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "We put ourselves in position to win a basketball game thanks to our defense."

Brand made 10 of 17 shots but Thomas was only 5-for-14 from the field and the Clippers shot 40 percent.

"Offensively tonight we just struggled," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "At times we had good looks, but we just couldn't make them. I thought they were pretty physical with us around the basket. We didn't do a good enough job finishing like we normally do."

The Clippers seemed insulted to lose to the lowly Hawks (10-21). Brand compared the loss to the team's six-game losing streak from Dec. 11-22.

"This is pretty bad right now," Brand said. "I think we lost six in a row. I think I've felt a little worse than this. But it's pretty close to rock bottom. Definitely."

Added Thomas: "This game right here hurt. Teams like this you're supposed to beat. ... To come in here and to lose to a team that pretty much outworked us is hurtful."

The Clippers' only lead was 8-6, but the Hawks could not pull away. The final margin matched Atlanta's largest lead, a 60-48 advantage in the third quarter.

The Clippers attacked inside with Brand from their first possession and kept passing to the power forward. Brand's first four points came on free throws after drawing fouls on Pachulia and Shelden Williams.

When the Hawks stopped fouling, Brand kept scoring. Brand scored the Clippers' first 12 points. No other Los Angeles player scored until a follow shot by Quinton Ross with 2:33 left in the opening period.

"When you have one guy scoring, that means four are in check," Woodson said, adding, "You're not going to stop Brand."

Johnson almost matched Brand with 11 first-quarter points, and the Hawks had better balance to lead 25-16 at the end of the period and 42-36 at halftime.

Atlanta pulled ahead by 12 points on a basket by Johnson with 4:41 left in the third quarter, but the Clippers finished the quarter with an 11-4 run to cut the deficit to 64-59.

The Clippers fell to 0-11 on the road when trailing after three quarters.

Notes: Clippers G Corey Maggette, the team's top reserve and second-leading scorer, was on the inactive list because of a sore left foot. The Clippers also were without G Sam Cassell, who was in uniform but did not play due to a sore heel. ... Hawks F Dijon Thompson, who signed with the team Saturday, was in uniform but did not play.


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