LOS ANGELES(AP) The goal is 50 wins and home-court advantage in the opening round of the NBA playoffs. The Atlanta Hawks are determined to make it happen.
Josh Smith scored 26 points, Joe Johnson added 21 and Atlanta beat the Clippers 97-80 on Wednesday night to end a four-game losing streak and hand Los Angeles its 12th straight loss.
"It's right there for us, so we got to take advantage and go get it,'' Johnson said. "Home-court advantage in the first round is very important to us.''
Ronald Murray added 17 points for the Hawks, who avoided a season-high fifth consecutive loss by beating up on the Western Conference's second-worst team.
The victory helped the Hawks generate some momentum for the first time this year after they won nine of 10 games to close out 2008. They had lost four in a row and five of their previous six coming in.
"It's huge because it keeps us right where we want to be in the standings,'' Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said about stopping the streak.
The Hawks' 23 victories are their most before next month's All-Star break in Woodson's five-year tenure.
Al Thornton scored 25 points, and rookie Eric Gordon added 18 for the Clippers, who haven't won since a 117-109 double-overtime victory at Indiana on Dec. 19. They fell to 3-16 at Staples Center this season. Marcus Camby had 12 points and 18 rebounds.
"It really depends on how we start off games, we get so down from the beginning, with messy execution,'' Thornton said. "Our offense tightens up and they get too many easy baskets on us and it hurts. It is definitely frustrating, but we need to keep fighting and find a way out of here.''
The Hawks led all the way, although the Clippers got within seven points in the fourth quarter on a three-point play by Gordon.
But Atlanta closed the game on a 16-6 run.
The losing is taking a visible toll on the Clippers, with resignation on several players' faces in the closing seconds.
"You can tell, when we made a few runs, they kind of dropped their heads,'' Johnson said. "They're a young team. They got to hang in there because they got a lot of talent. We've been on that road, we understand what it's like.''
The Clippers outscored the Hawks 27-23 in the third, but still trailed 66-58 going into the final 12 minutes. Gordon, Thornton and Mardy Collins combined to score all but two of the Clippers' points, with the trio keying a 12-4 run, including eight in a row, that cut a 15-point deficit to seven.
The Clippers were busy early in the game tying season lows for points in a quarter and a half.
For the fourth time this season, they scored just 12 points in the first period. Then again, the Hawks only had 15.
"We definitely wanted to come out and establish ourselves early,'' Smith said. "We weren't able to do it in the first quarter, but we did over the last three.''
The Clippers' 31 first-half points equaled their low for the third time this season. Only Fred Jones' 3-pointer with 24 seconds remaining kept Los Angeles from setting the record outright. The previous lows in both categories were established during their current losing streak.
The Clippers remain without Baron Davis, leading scorer Zach Randolph, and Chris Kaman. Guard Jason Hart also sat out because of a sore right elbow.
"(Coach) Mike Dunleavy is doing the best that he can with the lineup that is open to him, without Baron Davis and Zach Randolph, there is not much left open for him,'' Camby said. "We need to get guys back on the court. We have a playoff team on paper.''
The Hawks were missing center Al Horford, who didn't make the West Coast trip because of a knee injury.
Notes: Clippers G-F Ricky Davis played for the first time since his league-mandated five-game suspension ended Sunday. He had 2 points in nearly 16 minutes. ... Gordon has scored in double figures in 11 consecutive games. ... The teams split the season series last season and have lost four of their last five games against the Hawks. ... Bibby came in averaging 16.1 points in 36 career games against the Clippers. He finished with 10.