Hawks eager for road test

Six nights from now, after the Hawks finish meandering through four Western Conference cities, guard Joe Johnson figures they will know what they are about.

The Hawks' longest road trip of the season so far starts Friday at Oklahoma City and ends Wednesday in Utah. The road is where true contenders announce they are more than just another pretty good team.

"This is definitely a fine opportunity for us to kind of see where we're at," Johnson said Thursday. "We've been struggling a bit on the road. This is a chance for us to get out there and find ourselves a little bit."

It's not that the Hawks are struggling. They've posted a 21-13 record despite a busy schedule and multiple injuries. They've won four of their past five games.

But they've been here before, only to follow promising stretches with letdowns. So they see this trip as a chance to get on a roll that lasts.

"For me, it's always fun to get away," Hawks guard Jamal Crawford said. "It's always a challenge. It's 15 guys against 20,000 people. And that's where our growth really will come is winning on the road.

"When you are in the comforts of home, it's easier. Everything is better. This is the real challenge."

The Hawks seem to have regained their footing at Philips Arena after beating Golden State on Wednesday for their ninth consecutive home victory. But they are 4-7 on the road since winning five of their first six, and the efforts have varied widely in quality.

There have been competitive losses to tough opponents and ugly defeats to struggling foes. They'll see both on this trip: Oklahoma City (22-11) and Utah (22-10 before playing Portland late Thursday) bookend games against the Clippers (10-23) and Sacramento (6-23).

The test could be tougher for the Hawks if starting forward Marvin Williams is out for a significant period. He didn't travel with the team Thursday after suffering what the team said is a bruised back against Golden State.

Williams had an MRI on Thursday afternoon. The Hawks didn't update his status, but coach Larry Drew earlier didn't rule out Williams playing Friday or joining the team at some point.

His injury continues the Hawks' worsening injury luck: Players already have missed 46 games because of injury and illness this season after they sat out 25 last season.

"We have certainly had guys step up when we've had key guys out," Drew said. "Good teams do that."

They also take their game on the road, and for the Hawks that means dictating "the pace and the rhythm of the game," Drew said. He said they can do that through defending and rebounding and with good shot selection and limited turnovers.

More than the style of play, though, Drew said the Hawks have to show some fight.

"We have to go into each game with a mindset of we have got to play through any adverse situation," Drew said. "Our state of mind has to be very strong."

That's another area where the Hawks have something to prove. They can start Friday at Oklahoma City, the only team the Hawks didn't beat last season on their way to 53 victories.

"We get a chance to get back [at them], I guess," Johnson said. "We need to go out there and have some fun and try to start this road trip off right."