Crawford shoo-in for Sixth Man Award

NBA media have started voting for some of the league's annual awards, and it looks as if Hawks guard Jamal Crawford is a shoo-in to win the Sixth Man Award.

A preliminary poll of NBA beat writers shows Crawford as the clear favorite for the honor. That's no surprise since Crawford leads the league in scoring among players who haven't started a game and has been endorsed for the award by star players such as Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce.

Hawks coach Mike Woodson thinks the team should have a second award candidate in forward Josh Smith, who appeared to be lagging behind in the polling for the Defensive Player Award.

“He’s had a really good year for us defensively, rebounding, taking charges, blocking shots -- all of that,” Woodson said.

Smith ranks in the top five in blocks per game, in the top 10 for steals and in the top 20 for rebounds. He also rates highly in advanced statistics that seek to measure a player’s influence on a team’s defensive performance.

It doesn't appear the Hawks have a shot to win the other awards voted on by media: MVP, Rookie, Coach, and Most Improved. Hawks All-Star guard Joe Johnson is likely to receive votes for one of the three five-man All-NBA teams.

Soft curve

If the Hawks play the Heat in the first round of the playoffs, they’ll be the first good team Miami has seen in a while. The Heat’s surge in the Eastern Conference standings has come against a schedule back-loaded with opponents headed for the draft lottery.

The Heat will enter the playoffs after having played one team (Milwaukee) with a winning record since March 20. Miami finishes with games against four of the bottom five teams in the East standings: Detroit on Friday, New York on Sunday, Philadelphia on Monday and New Jersey on Wednesday.

Heat center Jermaine O'Neal said the Heat won't have a problem ratcheting up its intensity for the playoffs after playing so many also-rans.

"I believe that if you, as a player, can't turn it up going into the playoffs and playing against some of the premier teams in the league, then something is wrong with you individually," he said.

Just one call

The NBA took the unusual step of publicly admitting that an official missed a foul. It said Utah's C.J. Miles fouled Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant on a 3-point attempt in the final second of Utah's 140-139 overtime victory Tuesday.

Official Tony Brothers was in good position to see the play but didn't call a foul.

"That's cool that they said they were wrong, but it's still in the loss column,” Durant said.

Maybe Durant took the no-call in stride because he's getting more calls as his reputati0n rises. Celtics forward Kevin Garnett angrily complained about the issue to media after Boston's March 31 loss to Oklahoma City and was fined $25,000 for criticizing officials and cursing.

Durant was shooting 90 percent on free throws entering Friday's game against Phoenix and had made 716 free throws, the most since Karl Malone made 703 in 1988-89. With eight more Durant will move into the top 10 all-time for free throws made in a season.

Information collected by NBA beat writers was used in this report.

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