ATLANTA (AP)—The Los Angeles Clippers have their best start after six games in 20 years, and they are dreaming of an even better finish.
“The sky is the limit right now,” said Sam Cassell, who added 21 points as the Pacific Division-leading Clippers moved to 5-1 for the first time since the 1985-86 season.
Asked if he was surprised by the strong start, Cassell said: “I’ve been saying it all year. It’s not surprising me.”
The Hawks, meanwhile, have lost their first five games for the first time since the 2000-01 season, when they started 0-7.
The Hawks stayed close but didn’t lead after the first quarter.
“I thought we were on the verge, but a loss is a loss,” said Joe Johnson, who led the Hawks with 24 points and set a season high with 10 rebounds.
Johnson said the Hawks “don’t know how to win.”
“It’s tough right now,” Johnson said. “We’re in a nasty funk. Somehow, someway, we have to find a way to get a victory.”
Coach Mike Dunleavy said his Clippers were wary of overlooking the Hawks, especially after also beating Atlanta 92-77 Saturday in Los Angeles.
“I was really worried about this game, obviously, playing a team that has not won yet,” Dunleavy said. “I knew they were going to come out and play hard. They gave a great effort and the longer you let them stay around, hang around, the more confidence builds, the more opportunity they have to win.”
Added Dunleavy: “They’re a young team but I expected us to win because we have more talent than they do.”
Corey Maggette, playing in his second game since returning from a strained left hamstring, added 17 points in only 25 minutes.
The Hawks were held to 41 percent shooting from the field, including 1-for-9 on 3-point attempts. The Clippers made 48 percent of their shots.
Maggette scored 20 points in Wednesday night’s win at Washington, coming off the bench with 10 points in the second and fourth quarters. Again he came off the bench against Atlanta to score 10 in the second quarter as the Clippers led 50-47 at halftime.
The Clippers’ biggest lead of the first half was 39-29.
The Clippers maintained the lead but couldn’t pull away. After leading 75-69 at the end of the third quarter, the Clippers’ biggest lead in the final period was 12 points.
“We’re 5-1 but we’re not happy,” Brand said. “We didn’t play to the best of our ability.”
Brand had seven rebounds, missing a chance to set a franchise record with his 182nd double-double with the Clippers. Brand shares the mark with Loy Vaught.
“He’s on a nice little roll,” Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. “You have to pick your times when you double him. … He’s a load. He’s a career double-double since he’s been in the league. He makes it tough for a lot of teams.”
Atlanta resident Terrell Owens drew a loud and mixed response from fans when he was shown on the video screen sitting at his courtside seat. … The Hawks used the same starting lineup in consecutive games for the first time. They used four different lineups in their first four games.