Even with leading scorer Paul Millsap back on the court, the plummeting Atlanta Hawks haven’t been able to find any relief on their longest road trip of the season.
A matchup with a Utah Jazz team they’ve owned in recent years may change that in the finale.
As Millsap makes his return to Salt Lake City on Monday night, Atlanta will try to avoid its seventh straight loss overall and 15th in 16 games.
After spending his first seven seasons with the Jazz, Millsap signed a two-year deal with the Hawks in July. Playing in the weaker Eastern Conference, he’s become an All-Star for the first time while averaging a career-high 17.5 points.
Millsap finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds in just 26 minutes of a 118-85 home win over his former team Dec. 20.
The Hawks (26-35), however, suffered a big blow when the power forward went down with a right knee contusion late last month. He’ll try to keep working his way back after totaling 30 points on 11-of-26 shooting in two games since missing the previous five.
"It’s going to be an exciting game," Millsap said. "First game back there. I can’t wait to see a lot of familiar faces and see what type of reaction I get. Hopefully we go out, we bust through, and get a win."
Those have been tough to come by lately, even though Atlanta is finally as close to full strength as possible. On Saturday, Jeff Teague made just 1 of 2 free-throw attempts with 1.2 seconds left in a 109-108 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Former Utah players DeMarre Carroll and Kyle Korver combined for 36 points while hitting 6 of 9 from 3-point range. The Hawks made 12 of 28 from beyond the arc and can set a single-season club record by sinking at least 10 3s for a 28th contest.
As it desperately tries to hold on to the East’s final playoff spot, Atlanta looks to salvage a victory in the finale of this six-game trip. It has dropped its last 10 on the road, the team’s longest drought since losing the final 13 in 2006-07.
The Hawks have allowed an average of 113.2 points on 50.7 percent shooting – including 42.2 percent from 3-point range – in the first five on the trip. However, they limited the Jazz to a 37.3 field-goal percentage while shooting 52.3 percent in the first meeting.
Northwest Division-worst Utah (22-41) had averaged just 86.0 points over a five-game losing streak before ending the slide with a 104-92 victory at Philadelphia on Saturday.
Gordon Hayward finished with 22 points and eight assists, while Alec Burks scored 19 and Derrick Favors contributed 15 points and 14 boards as the Jazz handed the 76ers their 16th consecutive loss.
"It’s a win, man," coach Tyrone Corbin said. "The young guys got a chance to finish a game that was close."
Corbin’s club now seeks its third straight win at home, where it has gone 11-6 since Dec. 27. The Jazz, however, have dropped their last three home matchups with the Hawks after winning the previous 15.
Favors had 17 points and 15 rebounds in the most recent meeting in Salt Lake City, but Teague countered with 19 points as Atlanta pulled out a 102-91 victory on Feb. 27, 2013.
The Hawks have won five straight and eight of nine overall in this series.