Forget just making the playoffs for a second straight season. The Hawks have designs on bigger prizes, namely snagging home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
After learning just how important that is in their seven-game series with Boston last season --- they lost all four games at TD Banknorth Garden while winning all three home games --- they don't need any reminders now.
That's why they won't apologize for winning ugly at home the way they did Wednesday night in a 102-96 grinder over the Milwaukee Bucks at Philips Arena.
"I'll take a win anytime you can get it," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said after his team improved to 9-5, the Hawks' best November start in 11 years.
The Hawks also take a 5-1 home record with them into the extended Thanksgiving weekend, which will include stops in Toronto [Friday] and Washington [Saturday].
"We have to win at home," Woodson continued. "We've set goals for our team, and if you're talking about winning at a high level, you have to win games at home. Then you try to figure out the road when you get out there."
Since they're playing .500 ball [4-4] on the road, preserving their edge on their home floor is of the utmost importance until they can get everyone healthy.
"It's very important if you want to be one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference and in the league, period," said Al Horford, who had a huge night with 21 points, nine rebounds, three blocks and two steals despite being in foul trouble for most of the game. "You have to be able to take care of home-court advantage."
It took the Hawks almost the entire night to finally take advantage of the Bucks, who scrapped their way through the game without their starting center. Andrew Bogut is out a week to 10 days with a bruised left knee.
It took a Flip Murray 3-pointer from the corner with 54 seconds to play to finally subdue Scott Skiles' team.
"When you allow a team to shoot 50 percent and score 102 points, you're not going to win that game," Skiles said. "When we turned our heads, they were knocking down 3-pointers on us. It just wasn't our game tonight."
Still, the Hawks struggled to pull away. Especially with Ramon Sessions (21 points, eight assists and seven rebounds) and Charlie Villanueva (19) playing huge roles off the bench to help spark the visitors.
The Hawks countered with a balanced scoring effort. Mike Bibby scored 18 points on 6-for-14 shooting, including a 4-for-9 performance from beyond the 3-point line. Marvin Williams added 18 points and five rebounds, and Murray added 16 off the bench.
Hawks captain and All-Star Joe Johnson is playing with a sprained toe on his right foot, and it showed Wednesday. He finished his night with 15 points, nine assists and four rebounds. But he clearly wasn't his usual self, laboring with a strained look on his face several times up and down the floor.
Much like with the game, though, he wasn't particularly concerned with how he looked.
"That's part of being a good team, especially at home," Johnson said. "We always find a way at the end to pull it out. And a win is a win. I'll take it any way we can get it."
NEXT FOR Hawks
* Who: at Raptors
* When: 7 p.m. Friday
* TV; radio: Fox Sports South; 790 AM