With two months left in the regular season, the Atlanta Hawks have their sights set on winning the Southeast Division and earning one of the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference.
Coming out of the All-Star break, the Hawks begin that quest by opening a four-game western road trip Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Clippers, who could have at least one of their new acquisitions in the lineup.
Atlanta (33-18) is tied with Boston for third place in the East and 1 1/2 games behind Southeast leader Orlando. While it might be asking too much for them to catch Cleveland atop the East standings, the division title could give the Hawks the second seed in the conference.
Improving on their 12-12 road record could also help their cause. The Hawks, who snapped a three-game road losing streak with a win at Memphis on Feb. 9, can do that with a second consecutive victory over the Clippers (21-32), losers of five in a row and nine of 10.
"You really can't take a team for granted because our record is better than theirs," Hawks forward Josh Smith said.
Joe Johnson scored 34 points while Jamal Crawford added 22 and set an NBA record with his 24th 4-point play in Atlanta's 103-97 home over Los Angeles on Feb. 3.
Though the Hawks fared well against the Clippers earlier this month, they hope the break will help them bounce back from a 94-76 loss to Miami last Wednesday. Smith had 18 points and Johnson added 16 as Atlanta shot 37.5 percent while matching their second-lowest point total of the season.
"It's kind of frustrating when you don't give yourself a chance to win from the beginning," Smith said. "We really didn't come to play."
A sore shoulder kept Crawford out for the first time this season in that contest. The veteran guard has been a key contributor with 17.8 points per game in his first season with Atlanta.
"It's huge," coach Mike Woodson said of playing without Crawford. "You're talking about 17 or 18 points that's missing in action."
Crawford will likely be ready to face the Clippers, who could have newcomer Steve Blake in the lineup.
Los Angeles acquired Blake and Travis Outlaw from Portland in exchange for veteran forward-center Marcus Camby hours before losing 109-87 on the road to the Trail Blazers on Tuesday.
Blake averaged 7.6 points in 51 games for the Blazers and will provide backcourt depth of the Clippers. Outlaw, meanwhile, hasn't played since breaking his foot at Charlotte on Nov. 11.
"We shored up our backup point guard position and added mobility, range shooting and versatility to our front line," general manager Mike Dunleavy told the Clippers' official Web site.
Eric Gordon had 20 points Tuesday for the Clippers, who are averaging 91.3 points and shooting 42.5 percent while losing 10 of the last 12. Gordon had 17 against the Hawks earlier this month.
Los Angeles is 0-4 since Kim Hughes took over as coach after Dunleavy stepped down from the position Feb. 4.