Desperately trying to hold on to a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, a matchup with the historically bad Philadelphia 76ers was supposed to be a soft landing for the free-falling Atlanta Hawks.
Now they’ll have to face a Philadelphia team that could be riding high after putting an emphatic end to its 26-game skid.
Atlanta hopes to solidify its tenuous grasp on eighth place in the conference by snapping a six-game slide Monday night.
In the midst of their third losing streak of at least six games since Feb. 4, the Hawks are fortunate to be in the playoff hunt after going 6-20 during that stretch. Only the league’s two worst clubs, Philadelphia (1-23) and Milwaukee (5-20), have a lower winning percentage over that span.
Atlanta (31-41), however, still remains ahead of New York and Cleveland for the East’s final postseason spot even after Saturday’s 101-97 loss at Washington.
The Hawks shot 30 percent after halftime, and have scored just 89.2 points per game while hitting 26.6 percent from 3-point range in their last five.
"I think that there are things we can take with our activity on both ends," coach Mike Budenholzer said. "The last couple nights we’ve been talking offensively about playing with more variety and more pace."
It certainly doesn’t help that Kyle Korver, who shoots a league-best 48.6 percent from 3-point range, remains uncertain to play after missing the past six games with back spasms.
DeMarre Carroll, however, is expected to return from a one-game absence due to a stomach virus. The starting forward has made 8 of 12 from beyond the arc in two meetings with the 76ers (16-57).
After missing all five of his shots in a scoreless effort in Wednesday’s loss at Minnesota, Jeff Teague has recovered by totaling 41 points in his last two. He had 33 points and 10 assists in a 113-103 home win over Philadelphia on Nov. 15.
Paul Millsap, averaging 17.7 points and 8.1 rebounds, has put up a combined 20 points and eight boards while shooting just 36.8 percent in a pair of wins in the season series.
The 76ers had allowed an average of 111.3 points while matching Cleveland’s NBA-record 26-game losing streak in 2010-11. But they limited Detroit to just 38.8 percent shooting – including 6 of 21 from 3-point range – to break the epic slide with a 123-98 home win Saturday.
Michael Carter-Williams and Thaddeus Young each had 21 points for Philadelphia, which rung up 70 in the first half en route to its highest point total in regulation this season. The 76ers won for the first time since beating Boston exactly two months earlier, avoiding the longest skid in U.S. major pro sports history.
”We were just happy to get a win,” Young said. ”I don’t think it was for the streak or anything like that, we just wanted to go out there and win a basketball game and continue to just play.”
Young, who played at nearby Georgia Tech, has averaged 24.7 points in his last three against the Hawks. Although he scored a game-high 29 on Jan. 31, the 76ers shot 36.8 percent in a 125-99 home loss.
Philadelphia has shot 39.9 percent from the field while dropping 12 straight road games by an average of 19.7 points.