Los Angeles– All the Hawks’ talk about refocusing after the All-Star break wouldn’t mean much if they lost this game. The Clippers were shorthanded, still spinning from recent trades and had played at Portland the night before. The Hawks were fresh, back at full strength and had a chance to start their four-game Western Conference trip in style.
– The Clippers were ripe for a beating, and the Hawks obliged. “This game was a challenge for our mental focus,” Smoove said. “We couldn’t worry about who they had playing.”
– The Clippers pushed the Hawks while losing at Philips Arena on Feb. 3 but this wasn’t the same team. Baron Davis sat out with a sore back. Marcus Camby was traded on Monday. Al Thornton and Sebastian Telfair were traded before the game on Tuesday.
– Al Horford, fresh off his first All-Star appearance, went for a career-high 31 points. He was 12 of 15 from the floor as the Hawks shot 54 percent and scored 70 points in the paint. “The guys were finding me and I was getting a lot of good looks,” he said. “I was finishing plays and making them pay.”
– No one paid more than Clips forward DeAndre Jordan, who had all kinds of trouble with Horford. Al didn’t look like he needed a break over the weekend. “I had two really good practices,” he said. “I felt good coming into the game.”
– The Hawks led from seven minutes into the game until the final buzzer. “We got off to a pretty good start,” J.J said. “One thing we’ve got to get better at is jumping on teams and putting them away really fast. We’re still learning to do that but we’re getting better.”
– “We knew we really couldn’t give this team confidence early or we’d be in for a long night,” Smoove said.
– Smoove had 20 points, nine boards and seven assists. As complete games like this become more and more common it shouldn’t be lost that he’s having a great year.
– Zaza was back from his hip injury and looked good while getting eight points and five rebounds in 18 minutes. He looked to have good lift in his legs, which is a good sign. Zaza said he felt pretty good, too. “I can’t say all the pain is gone but I will take this one,” he said. “I will keep an eye on it.”
– Jamal came back from a shoulder injury and had 12 points and five assists. “It’s a real good start to the trip,” he said.
– When the Clippers threatened to get back in the game in the second quarter, the Hawks turned up their defensive pressure. They got six of their 16 steals in the period and held the Clippers to 18 points. “In the second quarter we came out and established the way we wanted the game to be,” J.J. said.
– The Hawks next head to Phoenix for a Friday night game. They face the Warriors on Sunday and the Jazz on Monday. Energy shouldn’t be a problem. “We are fresh,” Zaza said. “The couple of days off really helped us.”
– I’m out, Hawks fans.