With a few clubs hot on their heels, the Atlanta Hawks can’t afford to look back if they hope to hold on to one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
After putting an end to their prolonged slump, the Hawks return home looking to win consecutive games for the first time in more than a month Thursday night against the NBA-worst Milwaukee Bucks.
Atlanta (27-35) seemed to have a comfortable hold on a postseason berth in early February before plummeting to eighth place in the East during a forgettable 1-14 stretch.
The Hawks are now being pushed for that last spot by Detroit, New York and Cleveland as they try to build on a positive finish to their six-game road trip. Kyle Korver finished with 26 points and Paul Millsap added 23 against their former team to help Atlanta snap a six-game losing streak with a 112-110 win in Utah on Monday.
With Korver hitting all four of his 3-point attempts, the Hawks sank 13 of 29 from beyond the arc to set a single-season franchise record with 28 games with 10 or more 3-pointers.
"We felt like we needed this big-time," Millsap said after the Hawks won despite blowing a 17-point lead. "I hope this will be a good momentum boost going forward."
The Hawks have a solid chance to claim consecutive victories for the first time Jan. 31-Feb. 1, facing a Milwaukee team that is 5-25 on the road.
Though Brandon Knight led six players in double figures with 21 points and the Bucks (13-51) shot 52.7 percent Tuesday, they fell short of their first back-to-back wins of the season with a 112-101 loss at Minnesota.
"We gave ourselves a chance to win, having a lead going into the fourth, but just couldn’t get it going and win," said Nate Wolters, who had 14 points.
The Bucks hope to show some improvement defensively after allowing an average of 110.4 points on 50.2 percent shooting – including 41.9 percent from 3-point range – in their last five games.
That could be a difficult task against the Hawks, who have averaged 110.0 points while making 25 of 57 from beyond the arc in their last two contests. They hit 52.6 percent from the field and 13 of 26 on 3-pointers in a 112-87 win in Milwaukee on Jan. 25 in the teams’ only meeting this season.
Jeff Teague missed that game with a sprained ankle but averaged 22.0 points against Milwaukee last season – his best versus any opponent – and 9.5 assists in four matchups. He enters this one struggling, averaging 10.5 points on 32.5 percent shooting in his last four games after scoring more than 25 in four straight.
Knight scored 27 in the January loss to Atlanta and has reached double figures in a career-best 19 straight games overall, averaging 23.3 points in the last three.
He’ll look to continue that streak against an Atlanta team that has given up 112.7 points per game on 50.4 percent shooting in its last six.
Milwaukee, though, could be without forward Ersan Ilyasova for a second straight game due to an ankle injury.
The Bucks’ current five-game losing streak in this series is their longest since 1996-97, and they’ve dropped 10 of the past 11 regular-season meetings in Atlanta.