A new year has brought little success for the Atlanta Hawks. Facing the lowly Los Angeles Clippers could help turn things around.The visiting Hawks look to avoid a season-high fifth straight defeat while trying to extend the Clippers' losing streak to 12 games on Wednesday night.
Atlanta (22-15) lost 107-102 at Phoenix on Tuesday in the opener of its three-game western road trip. It was the third straight road loss for the Hawks, who dropped to 1-5 in 2009 after closing 2008 with six straight victories.
Though Josh Smith was one of three Atlanta players to post a double-double with 24 points and 10 rebounds, the Hawks trailed 31-16 after one quarter.
"This has been our trademark in recent games and we haven't won any of them," Smith said. "Our starting unit has to get off to a better start."
While Atlanta, fifth in the Eastern Conference, has failed to carry over that late December momentum, its struggles are nowhere near the magnitude Los Angeles (8-29) is experiencing.
The Clippers fell 109-103 to Phoenix on Sunday for its 11th straight loss - the third-longest skid in the NBA this season behind Oklahoma City (14 games) and Minnesota (13).
Ravaged by injuries to stars Baron Davis (tailbone), Zach Randolph (knee) and Chris Kaman (foot), Los Angeles hasn't won since a 117-109 double-overtime victory at Indiana on Dec. 19.
"It has been really tough," Los Angeles forward Al Thornton said. "It seems like there has been a curse every game."
Atlanta might be feeling the same way of late. Leading scorer Joe Johnson was held to 11 points - half of his season average - against the Suns.
Johnson has averaged 14.5 points in his last six contests for Atlanta, which is allowing 108.6 points over its last five games.
Atlanta has won three of the last four meetings with Los Angeles, but enters the first contest of the season between the teams without star center Al Horford, who did not make the trip because of a knee injury.
Thornton had 23 points and eight rebounds on Sunday for the Clippers, who are mired in their longest slide since a 13-game stretch from March 17-April 11, 2004.
Thornton (16.8 points per game) and rookie guard Eric Gordon, who's averaging 22.4 in his last eight, are trying to carry the load for the injury-riddled Clippers, who are putting up an average of 88.4 points during their current skid.
"We are really going to need good play from all the guys," said Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy, whose team is 1-10 in games decided by six points or fewer. "Al Thornton will have good big nights and then Eric Gordon will come up big on others. We need to see consistency from all of them on the same night to see real results."
Los Angeles will try to avoid its sixth straight loss overall at Staples Center where they are 3-15 this season.