Atlanta Hawks coach Larry Drew wants to see a better defensive
effort from his team down the stretch.
Facing the cold-shooting Milwaukee Bucks could help.
The visiting Hawks look for a sixth win in their last seven
meetings with the Bucks on Sunday when they meet for the second
time in five days.
Atlanta (38-31) hits the road for four games following a 1-2
homestand that ended with Friday’s 104-93 loss to Portland. The
Hawks were solid on the defensive end two days earlier in a 98-90
victory over Milwaukee (34-34), but that came after yielding their
most points of the season in Monday’s 127-113 loss to Dallas.
Atlanta was outscored 91-66 in the fourth quarter during the
homestand, including 31-17 against the Trail Blazers.
“We’ve got to get back to that blue-collar mentality with our
defense,” Drew said. “We’ve got to get back to an almost training
The Hawks need to make that change quick if they’re going to
have any chance of catching fourth-place Brooklyn and earning
home-court advantage in the first round of the Eastern Conference
playoffs. Chicago and Boston are close behind, and eighth-place
Milwaukee is only three games back in the loss column.
The Bucks have an eight-game cushion on the playoff cut line,
but with five losses in seven games they’re not putting much
pressure on the three teams they’re chasing.
Milwaukee is back home after averaging 84.0 points on 34.0
percent shooting in losses to Atlanta and Indiana.
Brandon Jennings and J.J. Redick shot a combined 2 for 26 – 0
for 9 from 3-point range – with six points as the Bucks had a
season-low point total in Friday’s 102-78 defeat at the Pacers.
“Nobody could get a shot to go down,” said center Samuel
Dalembert, who finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds. “Our
shooting percentage was real low (a season-low 30.7 percent). Some
guys had bad shooting games today and it gave Indiana opportunities
to score at the other end. And the game just got out of hand.”
The third quarter has been especially troublesome for the Bucks,
who have 27 total points during that period in the last two games.
They’ve been outscored by an average of 9.0 points in the 12
minutes after halftime in their past five.
Monta Ellis had 22 points on Friday, but he’s totaled 19 on
9-of-29 shooting in two losses to Atlanta this season. He missed 12
of 14 field-goal attempts and finished with five points on
Hawks point guard Jeff Teague has been far more efficient in
this season series, hitting 19 of 34 shots – including 6 of 8 from
long range – and leading the team with 50 points and 20
Atlanta center Al Horford has 49 points and 26 rebounds in the
two Milwaukee matchups. His go-ahead baby hook shot with 5.9
seconds left on Feb. 23 gave the Hawks a 103-102 win, spoiling
Redick’s Bucks debut.
Bucks center Larry Sanders, the league leader with 3.0 blocks
per game, could present a big challenge for Horford and Josh Smith,
but Milwaukee could again be without forward Ersan Ilyasova (hip)
and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (sprained toe).
Atlanta has won four of six at Milwaukee.