Clippers-Hawks Preview

The Associated Press

The Atlanta Hawks and Los Angeles Clippers meet Tuesday night at Philips Arena, and they are in similar positions of closing in on home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Atlanta (38-26) holds a one-game lead over Atlantic Division champion Boston, which is guaranteed the No. 4 seed in the playoffs. The Hawks have clinched the fifth seed, and would have the home edge for their playoff series against the Celtics if they finish with a better record than Boston, which hosts Miami on Tuesday.

"I'm just looking for just the consistency and for the strong finish," Hawks coach Larry Drew said. "I said before that I think it's important to go into any playoff series with a strong taste in your mouth."

The scenario is simpler for Los Angeles (40-24), which needs one win or a loss by Memphis to ensure it will begin the playoffs at Staples Center.

"We got to keep fighting," point guard Chris Paul said. "We got to win one more to lock up home court so a big game for us in Atlanta."

The Clippers must win Tuesday to keep alive their hopes of gaining the Pacific Division title and No. 3 seed. They'd also have to beat New York on Wednesday and hope the Lakers lose Thursday's finale at Sacramento.

The Clippers head east after a hard-fought 107-98 victory over lowly New Orleans in Sunday's regular-season home finale. They outscored the Hornets 33-14 in the fourth quarter.

"We needed this game a lot more than they did," guard Mo Williams said. "We want to get the home-court advantage. It's very important to us."

Paul led the way with 33 points and 13 assists, scoring 13 points in the decisive final period after the Clippers turned in a mostly lackluster effort.

"Our effort, our energy, our attitude, our intensity, anything you want to call it was not very good for about 40 minutes," coach Vinny Del Negro said.

Paul will match up with fellow Wake Forest product Jeff Teague for the second time with both starting. Paul finished with 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting in the Clippers' 96-82 home win over the Hawks on March 14, as Los Angeles shot 54.3 percent.

Teague had 10 points in that game, hitting just 3 of 11 from the field. The only other time he faced a Paul-led team, he shot 0 of 8 off the bench in the Hawks' 100-59 loss to New Orleans on Jan. 21, 2011.

Atlanta had a three-game win streak snapped with Sunday's 113-112 home loss to the Knicks.

Marvin Williams had a season-high 29 points and 11 rebounds, but the Hawks let New York shoot 54.4 percent - the third-highest mark allowed by Atlanta this season, just ahead of its effort versus the Clippers.

"It's frustrating that we're still playing for something and defensively we were nonexistent," guard Joe Johnson said. "There was no help (on defense). If you were guarding somebody 1-on-1, you were definitely guarding 1-on-1."

Two of the NBA's most exciting dunkers will be on display in the Hawks' Josh Smith and the Clippers' Blake Griffin.

The Hawks may have issues defending Griffin since they remain without injured big men Al Horford (torn left pectoral muscle) and Zaza Pachulia (sprained left foot).

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