Josh Smith didn’t want to talk much about tonight’s matchup with Blake Griffin.
He didn’t want to dwell on the Highlight Factory vs. Lob City.
“I’m not worried about the matchup,” Smith said following Tuesday morning’s shoot-around in preparation for the Clippers. “My main concern is winning the basketball game.”
Both teams have plenty to play for. The Hawks’ magic number to clinch home-court advantage is two. They can clinch tonight with a victory and a Celtics loss to the Heat. The Hawks must finish with a better record than the Celtics (by virtue of Boston holding the tie-breaker and winning the Atlantic Division). So they must either win both remaining games or win one and have the Celtics lose one to host the Eastern Conference matchup.
“We do have an opportunity to get home-court advantage,” Marvin Williams said. “It will be huge for us and I think everybody understands that.”
The Clippers are a half-game behind the Lakers for the Pacific Division lead and the third seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
The Hawks’ offense has been effective the past several games. They have shot over 50 percent in their last two games against the Knicks (54.4) and Celtics (51.4) and were very near the mark in wins over the Pistons (49.4) and Raptors (48.8).
However, it’s the defensive effort that is of concern for Hawks coach Larry Drew.
“I like the fact that offensively the numbers have been good,” Drew said Tuesday morning. “My concern will always be with defense. I don’t think I could ever be satisfied defensively. There are times when we’ve show major improvements in areas and times where we fall back into a lapse of defending. Going down the stretch, it’s about trying to get as fine-tuned as we can going into the playoffs and when you go into the playoffs make sure you dot every I and cross every T, particularly from a defensive standpoint. That’s going to be your staple in any playoff series, how well you can defend. We are going to have to go into these last two ball games, playing against two teams who are playoff bound, it’s a great opportunity to finish this thing on a positive note against two good teams. I’m always stressing and emphasizing defense. I’m a big defense guy. I want our defense to be ahead of our offense. As of lately, we’ve done a good job offensively but we have to get that consistency defensively.”