What might be tougher to explain than Al Horford's misstep this week is his team's lunge backward in the process.
The low point of an inconsistent stretch has left the Atlanta Hawks with questions, which they'll attempt to answer Friday night as they go for their seventh straight road win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Victories over Philadelphia and Chicago last Friday and Sunday followed a 1-3 stretch as Atlanta played more like the team that won six in a row preceding that slump. However, a blowout loss to a last-place team their last time out washed away any positive feelings.
Atlanta (23-16) suffered its second-worst defeat of the season Wednesday, 107-84 at Charlotte, which trails the first-place Hawks by just 4 1/2 games in the Southeast Division. Atlanta led only after the first basket of the game and trailed by as many as 35.
Paul Millsap had 20 points but no other Hawk scored in double figures as the club shot 37 percent. Horford's stats might have been the most stunning, as he scored a career-low two points, committed four turnovers and posted a minus-30 rating – the worst for an Atlanta player this season.
The forward had averaged 21.4 points in the previous five games and scored 33 with 10 rebounds, six assists and four blocks in the 120-105 win over the Bulls.
''Our whole group did not play well,'' coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Our entire group, from top to bottom, I don't think anybody feels real great about how we played.”
The Hawks have given up at least 105 points five times in the last six games. Atlanta hasn't been able to end its up-and-down play this season, with win streaks of seven and six games surrounded by spotty results. The Hawks have gone 3-4 since the six consecutive victories.
They'll try to steady themselves against another last-place team in Milwaukee (16-25), continuing a stretch of seven of eight against sub-.500 teams that started with the Hornets game.
Atlanta has won 13 of 15 against the Bucks, and the six in a row at the Bradley Center have seen Milwaukee average 93.7 points. They scored 86 and 85 in the past two.
Milwaukee also felt good following Tuesday's 106-101 win over Chicago, but it lost by the same score at Washington on Wednesday for its fourth defeat in six games. One night after setting a season low with five turnovers, the Bucks committed a season-high 27 with 12 coming in the final 12 minutes.
''Way too much,'' said center Greg Monroe, who had 21 points and 12 rebounds. ''If we take care of the ball, we probably give ourselves a better chance to win.''
Khris Middleton led the Bucks with 25 points and Giannis Antetokounmpo had 19 and 11 rebounds – his third straight game with double-digit boards.
The Bucks are 11-7 in Milwaukee and have won two straight there. Atlanta has lost nine of its last 15 road games after opening the season 4-0 away from home.