Houston --- Joe Johnson's focus isn't on the Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs or any other team on the Hawks' upcoming schedule. That focus is reserved for another team Johnson wants to keep an eye on --- his own.
The Hawks captain is trying to make sure his team finds ways to sustain the positive momentum created by the best start in a decade. That's why he talks passionately about making sure his team is on the "same page" and plays as a unit.
"You've got to play whoever is up next, and you know our coaches will make sure we're prepared for whoever that is," Johnson said with the Rockets up tonight at Toyota Center. "But right now, it's more about us and what we're doing. We haven't played our best lately, and that includes [Friday's win over] the Knicks, too. We're not playing the way we did earlier this year, when we had everybody on the same vibe. We have to get back to that."
A four-game trip, with stops in all three Texas NBA cities and finishing up in Miami on Friday, is not the best time for a team to find itself.
Until the Hawks put together a complete-game performance, like the ones they turned in early last month, the questions still need answers.
Are they the team that posted impressive road wins in Orlando, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Chicago and Washington? Or the team that turned in uneven performances in losses in Indiana, Cleveland, Toronto and now Dallas?
"The way I see it, you're only as good as your last [game]," Josh Smith said. "The same goes for any team. And for all but about eight minutes of the third and fourth quarters, we were pretty good. We just had that lull where things went sideways, and we had to scramble to get back in the game.
"But I think we proved we're capable of going on the road and winning against good teams. We just have to get that swagger back."
Getting everyone healthy would help, too.
Smith went down with a high ankle sprain four games into the season and missed the next 12. The Hawks went 1-5 on the road during his absence.
Al Horford missed Saturday's loss to the Mavericks with a sprained right ankle but is expected back for tonight's game.
Hawks coach Mike Woodson refuses to use injuries as an excuse. He's seen his team compete far too well on the road without key players.
"It's about our concentration and our focus," Woodson said. "Our breakdowns have been more about what we didn't do than they have been about what's been done to us. That's what we have practice for, to go back and clean up some things when we have some slippage."
And that's where Johnson's focus on self comes into play.
"It's really all about us right now and how bad we want to do this," he said. "Just like the start of the season when we had to hit the road hard and were in some tough spots and came out of them in a pretty good spot, we're going to find out what we're made of on this trip."