Vivlamore reporting from Los Angeles.
Los Angeles – Josh Smith is ready to put a tough loss – and a tough offensive game – behind him as the Hawks start a four-game West coast trip against the Clippers Sunday.
There were positives in the Hawks’ 95-89 home loss to the Heat Friday. They played right with the defending champions for 47 minutes. It’s just that an NBA game lasts 48 minutes. A couple of missed scoring chances in the final seconds cost the Hawks what would have been another signature win early in the season.
The team flew to California Saturday with film to study in preparation for a game against another tough Western Conference opponent in the Clippers (4-2), the first of four games in six days. Games at the Trail Blazers (2-3), Warriors (3-3) and Kings (2-4) follow on the team’s first extended trip.
“We had some plays that we could have made that weren’t made,” center Al Horford said after the loss to the Heat. “It’s tough. We have to learn from this. … I think we were encouraged as a team to see the potential we have. We played well. We just need to play consistent throughout.”
The Hawks (2-2) already have a road win at the defending Western Conference champion Thunder and a 14-point comeback win against the Pacers. They nearly erased a 16-point deficit against the Rockets in their season opener and had a late lead before losing to the Heat. The two victories have come by a combined 12 points. The two losses came by a combined 13 points.
Against the Heat, Smith finished with 13 points and eight rebounds. However, he was 6-for-19 from the field and 1-for-5 from the free-throw line.
“I have to be better offensively for this ball club,” Smith said after a game he spent much time guarding LeBron James. “As a leader I have to be more efficient. I have to be better at the free-throw line. I apologized to all my teammates because that was just a poor effort offensively by me. I mean it is a tough task to give energy on both ends of the court but I have to be more efficient. And I will be more efficient.”
Several other Hawks struggled offensively against the Heat. Devin Harris (four points), DeShawn Stevenson (three), Zaza Pachulia (two) and Lou Williams (two) all finished well below their averages. The four combined to shoot 3 of 19 from the field.
Smith said he was encouraged that the Hawks could have defeated the Heat despite those offensive struggles.
“We’ve been fighting (together),” Smith said. “We’ve been sharing the basketball. Numerous guys who normally have good games offensively didn’t have good games and we were still in the ball game. That’s a positive that we can take. We have to look at the film and figure out better ways to give ourselves a chance at winning.”
The Clippers boast all-stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. However, it’s a former Hawks player that is leading the team in scoring early in the season. Jamal Crawford is averaging 21.8 points per game, well ahead of Paul (17.5) and Griffin (15.7). Crawford entered Saturday’s NBA schedule tied for seventh in the league in scoring. Still coming off the bench, Crawford won the NBA’s Sixth Man award playing for the Hawks in 2010.
The Clippers also have Willie Green, who played 53 games with the Hawks last season, starting a guard.
Hawks coach Larry Drew said he wants his team to concentrate on the opponent at hand during the road trip.
“Any time we go out on a road trip, particularly a long one, our philosophy is to take it one game at a time,” Drew said. “I will tell our guys that. We can’t look beyond any game.”
When the Hawks return from the west coast, they will play seven of their next eight games at home.
- Chris Vivlamore
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