The Atlanta Hawks hope that Blake Griffin's first visit to the Highlight Factory ends with a loss.
Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers begin a staggering 11-game road trip when they head to Philips Arena for a Friday night matchup against the Hawks (7:30 p.m., SportSouth, 97.9 FM).
Despite a bump or two in the road, Atlanta has played very well in its home arena, winning 13 of their last 15 here, including a 100-87 win over the lowly Toronto Raptors on Wednesday. But standing in the way is a better Clippers team that boasts one of the most exciting players in the league.
The rookie Griffin has had absolutely no problems taking his college game to the pros. The former Oklahoma standout ranks 12th amongst all players with 26 points per game and fourth with an average of 12.7 rebounds per contest. That and a staggering 40 double-doubles over his first 48 games as a pro got the rook onto the Western squad for the All-Star Game at the Clippers' home -- the Staples Center -- on Feb. 20.
While Griffin's success hasn't exactly translated to a bunch of wins for the 19-29 Clippers, you have a feeling that the much maligned franchise may actually be on the right track for the first time in recent memory.
Standing in the way of Los Angeles' 20th win is a superior Hawks team, which will be bolstered by the return of Marvin Williams on Friday. The Atlanta forward will be back after serving a two-game suspension for his altercation with Shawne Williams of the New York Knicks.
Griffin & Co. must also shut down a red-hot Joe Johnson, who rewarded with his fifth straight All-Star nod thanks in part to a sensational January, where he averaged 26.0 points per game. Johnson is coming off of his best game of the season, where he posted a season-best 37 points against the listless Raptors.
Also selected to the All-Star Game was Atlanta center Al Horford, who will be playing in his second straight game. Horford is averaging 16.1 points and 9.9 rebounds per contest.
The Hawks are looking to beat a Los Angeles team that they haven't exactly have a bunch of success with at Philips Arena. Atlanta has dropped four of its last seven to the struggling Clippers franchise in their home digs. The Hawks did post a come-from-behind 107-98 win over L.A. at the Staples Center on Jan. 2.