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Hawks dismantled at home

POSTED: February 7, 2009 11:51 p.m.

ATLANTA — Coach Mike Woodson was digusted with the effort of his Atlanta Hawks. Even with Mike Bibby injured and unable to play, Woodson at least expected the Hawks to play hard.

"We were flat from the beginning to the end, and it’s unacceptable," he said. "We didn’t compete tonight. The first time I’ve seen that in this team all year. We just didn’t compete — at all."

Al Thornton scored 31 points and Zach Randolph had 25 in the Los Angeles Clippers’ 121-97 victory over the Hawks on Saturday night.

The Clippers, whose 21-point win Friday at Memphis stopped an 11-game road losing streak, improved to 7-19 away from the Staples Center. And they were barely challenged by the Eastern Conference’s fourth-best home team.

Los Angeles earned consecutive wins for the first time since Dec. 16, a span of 26 games. Given that the Clippers are routinely one of the NBA’s least competitive teams, Woodson was concerned that his players would give a halfhearted effort.

So was Atlanta’s leading scorer, Joe Johnson, who returned from missing two games with the flu.

"It was tough, man," Johnson said. "I’m still battling a little bit of this cold, but I wanted to be out there for the guys. If I’d have known we were going to stink it up like this, I’d have come in my suit."

The absence of point guard Bibby, who missed the game with a sore foot, didn’t help as Atlanta ended a two-game winning streak. It was the first game this season without Bibby, who injured his foot the previous night at Charlotte and wasn’t in uniform for the game.

Woodson doesn’t know how long Bibby will be out, but coach didn’t rule out a chance before the game that his point guard might return Tuesday against Washington.

"Only time will tell," Woodson said. "Bibby’s a big part of what we do and we missed him tonight, obviously. I don’t know if he would have made that big of a difference. They shot lights out and our defense was in Charlotte."

The Hawks trailed 100-74 after Steve Novak’s basket with 9:15 remaining.

A poor start doomed Atlanta, which went 5:48 without a field goal in the first quarter and trailed 17-4 on Zach Randolph’s 3-pointer.

"Tonight was as close as we’ve been to our normal rotation," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "We were moving the ball, getting clean looks and getting good shots. Al Thornton was terrific tonight."

For Thornton, a former Florida State standout who grew up 100 miles south of Atlanta in Perry, Ga., the homecoming of sorts was refreshing in the middle of another long season for the Clippers.

"It was good to have a game like this in front of my family and friends," Thornton said. "It’s very important for us to get on a roll because we’ve been struggling all year. Hopefully we can carry some of this momentum into the (All-Star) break (next week)."

Dropping to 18-6 at home, the Hawks never got any closer than nine after Johnson’s three-point play midway through the third.

Johnson and Marvin Williams each scored 17 points for Atlanta, while Josh Smith added 16 points and 15 rebounds.

Before Ricky Davis’ 3-pointer made it 81-65 late in the third, Los Angeles’ reserves were a combined 0-for-1 from the field.

Thornton hit 13 of 22 shots from the field. Randolph was 10-for-18 from the field, including 3-for-3 beyond the arc. He was coming off a 35-point performance at Memphis that included a 4-for-5 performance on 3s.

For Atlanta, the difference was playing poor defense.

"I feared that coming in," Woodson said. "You can’t look at their record. They’re starting five are as good as any starting five in the league."

Notes: The Hawks dropped to 5-15 when allowing 100 or more points. ... Randolph, acquired in a trade on Nov. 21 that sent Tim Thomas and Cuttino Mobley to New York, didn’t score 30 points last season for the Knicks. ... The Clippers shot 57 percent, just 2 percent below their performance against the Grizzlies.



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