ATLANTA - The Clippers have their best start after six games in 20 years, and they are dreaming of an even better finish.
"We want to be one of the top teams in the West, and we think we are," Elton Brand said after he scored 23 to lead Los Angeles past winless Atlanta 102-95 Thursday night.
"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 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 from 3-point range. The Clippers made 48 percent of their shots.
Atlanta's Zaza Pachulia also had a double double with 16 points, 13 rebounds and a team-leading six assists. Al Harrington added 14 points and rookie Marvin Williams had 12.
HEAT 88, ROCKETS 84: Dwyane Wade scored 25 and Jason Williams had eight of his 13 in the final quarter as host Miami rallied from an eight-point deficit.
Wade added eight rebounds and seven assists for Miami, which also got 13 points and nine rebounds from Alonzo Mourning and 12 points from Gary Payton.
Yao Ming had 24 points and 14 rebounds for Houston, but he scored only two in the final 20:04.
PISTONS 111, SUNS 104: Richard Hamilton scored 11 points in the final 7 1/2 minutes and Chauncey Billups sank a game-clinching 3-pointer with 16 seconds to go to keep the Detroit Pistons unbeaten with a 111-104 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.
Billups had 27 points and 11 assists for the Pistons, the league's lone team without a loss. At 5-0, they are off to their best start since they won their first eight en route to the NBA title in 1988-89.
BULLS: The team will retire Scottie Pippen's No. 33 jersey on Dec. 9, when former Chicago coach Phil Jackson visits with the Lakers.
CAVALIERS: Already the city's most famous citizen, LeBron James has never been bigger in Cleveland. He's 10-stories tall.
As a way of acknowledging the All-Star forward's impact, Nike has hung a billboard of James, pictured preparing to dunk a basketball, on the side of a building near Quicken Loans Arena, home of the Cavaliers, that is 110 feet high and 212 feet wide.
HEAT: Center Shaquille O'Neal had the hard cast removed from his sprained right ankle but there's still no firm timetable for his return to the lineup. O'Neal sprained the ankle Nov. 3 against Indiana when he stepped on Ron Artest's foot. The team said at the time he would miss two to four weeks.[Last modified November 11, 2005, 01:30:06]