Hawks-Bobcats Preview

Coming off one of the most humiliating losses in their history,

the Atlanta Hawks might welcome a two-game road trip.

They might not be too thrilled about their first stop.

Hoping to put a sluggish performance behind them, the Hawks try

to win six straight road games in a single season for the first

time in 17 years with a rare victory over the Bobcats in Charlotte

on Saturday night.

After splitting its final 10 games of 2010, Atlanta (28-16)

opened the new year by winning seven of eight. The Hawks were

brimming with confidence following an overtime win in Miami on

Tuesday, but their surge came to an abrupt end Friday with a 100-59

home loss to New Orleans.

The Hawks shot 29.1 percent, were outrebounded 55-32 and scored

their fewest points since the franchise moved to Atlanta 42 years

ago. Only Jordan Crawford’s 3-pointer with 32 seconds remaining

kept the Hawks from their lowest offensive output ever – a 57-point

game in 1955, when the team was in St. Louis.

“You can’t explain it,” Atlanta forward Josh Smith said. “You

have games like this sometimes.”

There’s reason to believe Atlanta could bounce back

Saturday.

The Hawks, who shouldn’t be too tired after sitting their

starters in Friday’s fourth quarter, have won all five games away

from Atlanta since the calendar flipped to January. They haven’t

won six consecutive road games since reeling off seven in a row

Nov. 17-Dec. 22, 1993.

Although Atlanta has won three of its last four games against

the Bobcats, including a 90-85 home victory on Dec. 17 in their

only meeting this season, the Hawks have struggled mightily in

North Carolina.

Atlanta has lost its last three visits to Charlotte by an

average of 12.0 points, and is just 2-10 all-time when visiting the

Bobcats. The Bobcats’ 10 home victories over the Hawks are tied for

their most versus any opponent.

Charlotte (17-24) has also won six of its last seven home games

against Eastern Conference foes, including Thursday’s 100-97

victory over Philadelphia.

Putting a damper on the win, the Bobcats learned during the game

that Tyrus Thomas will be sidelined up to two months with a knee

injury.

The 6-foot-10 Thomas is averaging 11.1 points and 5.8 rebounds

this season for Charlotte, which has gone 8-5 and climbed into

seventh place in the East since Paul Silas replaced Larry Brown as

coach.

“Tyrus brought the energy to the game, blocking shots,

dunking,” said point guard D.J. Augustin, who had 22 points

against Atlanta last month. “We’re just going to have to pick it up

and play with energy.”

Augustin gave the Bobcats a big boost Thursday, finishing with a

career-high 31 points and eight assists. The Bobcats are 8-4 when

Augustin has at least eight assists, and 9-20 when he doesn’t.

Augustin’s strong performance helped offset bad shooting nights

by Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace, who combined for 20 points

and shot 7 of 23 from the field.

Jackson, who averages a team-best 18.1 points, had one of his

worst shooting performances of the season against Atlanta in

December, going 3 for 14 from the floor and finishing with nine

points.

Joe Johnson, Al Horford and Marvin Williams each had 16 points

for the Hawks in the first meeting.

Horford, who averages 16.2 points and a team-high 9.7 rebounds,

missed his first game of the season Friday with an ankle injury. He

might sit out again along with Williams, who has missed Atlanta’s

last 10 games with a bruised back.