When he's bad, no player draws the ire of Hawks fans the way Josh Smith can. But when's good, the way he was during the Hawks' 97-80 blowout win over the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday night, Smith is really, really good.Instead of his usual array of jumpers from all over the floor, Smith decided to attack the Clippers in the lane and it paid off handsomely for the Hawks' high-flying power forward.
Smith finished his night with a game-high 26 points on 8-for-15 shooting, adding a team-high eight rebounds to go with it.
Even more important, Smith kept Hawks coach Mike Woodson off his back by playing the way Woodson's been asking him to play since the season opener, when Smith's dominant defensive play fueled the Hawks' win over the Magic in Orlando.
"I don't want to take his game away from him," Woodson said of his preference that Smith work from the inside out as opposed to the outside in. "But I want to him to play how we want him to play within our team. To be effective within our team. There were times (in Tuesday's loss in Phoenix) when he could have cut a when Joe (Johnson) was double-teamed. That would have opened the floor up.
"(On Wednesday night) he was excellent. He just played a well-rounded game on both ends of the floor for us."
After a much-needed day off, the Hawks will have to see if Smith can do it again when they face the Golden State Warriors Friday night.
HAWKS 97, CLIPPERS 80: You can't blame the Hawks for taking out their recent frustrations on the lowly Los Angeles Clippers.
Everyone else in the league has done the same.
The Hawks snapped their four-game losing streak Wednesday night at Staples Center with a 97-80 win and handed the Clippers their 12th straight loss.
As ugly as the win might have seemed, it was therapeutic for the Hawks. After a solid week of losing, they needed something good to happen.
And the Clippers showed up on the schedule just in the nick of time.
"The last couple of nights we haven't the Atlanta Hawks," Flip Murray said after a sizzling 17-point effort off the bench. "We've been coming out flat. (Wednesday night) we wanted to get off to a good start and try to get a win from there."
Well, the good start didn't happen. But the Hawks did lead this one from wire to wire. And they got solid efforts from the bench as well as a much-maligned starting unit that hadn't carried its usual load since last Wednesday's loss to Orlando.
The win keeps the Hawks (23-15) a half-game ahead of the Pistons, losers in Indiana Wednesday night, for the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff chase.
"It's huge because it keeps us right where we want to be in the standings," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "That's critical. If we're still talking about trying to win 50 games and hosting a first round series and playing on the Philips arena floor, we have to hold on to that fourth spot."