Vivlamore (a little weary) reporting.
The Hawks have another chance to claim first place in the Southeast Division tonight. With a victory over the Bobcats, the Hawks would match the 14-6 record of the Heat. A loss to the Heat Monday prevented the Hawks from overtaking Miami for the division lead and second place in the Eastern Conference.
Coach Larry Drew said he wants his team concentrating on the task at hand.
“I really haven’t been paying attention to standings,” Drew said. “I’ve just been trying to really focus game by game. I know when we went down there and had an opportunity we came up short. After that Miami game, I told our guys let’s not concern ourselves with standings and what people are saying. Let’s go out and take it a game at a time and try to play our best basketball.”
In other news:
* Forward Josh Smith is eighth in fan voting for frontcourt players in the Eastern Conference. The NBA released its first balloting update Thursday and Smith had 69,344 votes. He is behind LeBron James (641,348), Carmelo Anthony (573,112), Kevin Garnett (218,246), Chris Bosh (210,724), Tyson Chandler (151,744), Paul Pierce (114,735) and Joakim Noah (73,366).
Center Al Horford was not among the top 15 frontcourt vote getters. Guard Jeff Teague was not among the top 10 backcourt vote getters.
The All-Star ballot lists 120 players – 60 each from the Eastern and Western conferences – with 36 frontcourt and 24 guards.
Balloting concludes on Jan. 14, and starters will be announced on Jan. 17. This season’s game will be played on Feb. 17 at the Toyota Center in Houston.
* Kyle Korver returns to the starting lineup tonight. He played 23 minutes against the Magic last night after missing five games with back spasms. Drew said he will again limit Korver but expected him to play around 20 minutes. The rest of the starting lineup against the Bobcats is Jeff Teague, DeShawn Stevenson, Smith and Horford.
* In the Hawks’ last meeting with the Bobcats, a 94-91 win on Nov. 28, Ben Gordon almost single-handedly won the game with a 20-point fourth quarter. I asked Drew what specifically he planned to limit Gordon tonight.
“I don’t want to get into specifics but going back and looking at the last time we played this team we did some things well, we did some things not so well,” Drew said. “We’ve already talked about the adjustments we’ll make from the last time we played this team. We still have to be concerned with how good this team is off the dribble. They’re really good off the dribble. They have guys who can break the defense down. Now that they have (Gerald) Henderson back it gives them another guy. We are going to have to be good defending off the ball. We’re going to have to be good getting back on defense because they will run.”
* Finally, the Bobcats have lost nine straight. Drew doesn’t want to be the team to snap the streak. He said energy will be the key to the game as both teams played and travelled last night.
- Chris Vivlamore
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