(AP) – The Atlanta Hawks are playing much better at home than they were earlier in the season.
The Hawks hope that trend continues Friday night when Marvin Williams returns to the lineup to face the Los Angeles Clippers.
Atlanta (31-11) started off slowly at Philips Arena with a 3-5 mark. The Hawks have recently turned the building dubbed the ‘Highlight Factory’ into more of an advantage by winning 13 of 15 there, including a 100-87 victory over Toronto on Wednesday.
Joe Johnson provided plenty of highlights with a season-high 37 points. He’s averaging 32.7 points and 57.7 percent shooting in his last three games and is slowly regaining his All-Star form after missing nine games in December due to elbow surgery.
“I’ve been taking my time,” Johnson said. “My body is feeling pretty good now.”
The Hawks split two games without Williams, who was suspended for a fight with New York’s Shawne Williams in a victory last Friday. He’ll be back in the lineup after Maurice Evans filled in the last two games.
Atlanta is 16-7 at home, but 4-5 against Western Conference opponents this season.
Los Angeles (19-29), though, is 3-15 on the road for the second-worst mark in the West. The Clippers are starting an 11-game road stretch with an eight-game trip before the All-Star break.
“When the game gets technical or fundamental or it gets hard, we suddenly with our youth, we gotta stay together more. We’re not doing that,” coach Vinny Del Negro said. “That’s kinda what happens to us on the road. We kinda have these lulls and we let that affect more than it should.”
Del Negro has injury concerns at the start of this trip. Leading scorer Eric Gordon won’t return until after the break due to a wrist injury.
The backcourt news got worse when Baron Davis got hurt in a 106-88 loss to Chicago on Wednesday. Davis had 10 points and three assists.
“(He) kinda hurt his back a little bit,” Del Negro said. “He got hit in the first half and it kinda tightened up on him, he could never get it loose. It was very stiff. Baron just gave us what he could but he was hobbling out there a little bit so that’s obviously a concern.”
Blake Griffin recorded his 40th double-double and seventh in a row with 32 points and 13 rebounds. The Clippers were outrebounded 41-30 as their nine-game home win streak ended.
“There is no secret to rebounding. It’s all about energy and effort,” forward Ike Diogu said. “I guess they provided more energy than our team. Blake did a great job of rebounding, but the rest of us have to have his back.”
The Hawks, losers of four of their last seven home meetings with the Clippers, are trying for a second straight season sweep.
Atlanta overcame a 16-point deficit in a 107-98 win at Los Angeles on Jan. 2 despite Griffin’s 31 points and 15 boards. Johnson scored 29 points, Jamal Crawford added 24 and Josh Smith had 22 and 10 rebounds.
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