Trail Blazers-Hawks Preview

Facing some of the league’s top teams, the Atlanta Hawks keep

fizzling.

After another ugly second-half performance, the Hawks will try

to avoid losing their fifth straight for the first time in three

years Saturday night when they host the Portland Trail Blazers.

Atlanta (37-28) matched its longest losing streak of the season

with a 94-76 loss at Chicago on Friday. The Hawks, who have dropped

four straight for the first time since November, scored only 26

points and shot 31.3 percent after halftime, continuing a

disturbing pattern.

Atlanta is averaging 38.5 points and shooting 38.2 percent in

the second half during its skid, which also includes defeats to

playoff contenders Oklahoma City and New York.

Joe Johnson led the Hawks with 16 points Friday while Josh Smith

added 15 and Jamal Crawford scored 14. Smith and Crawford, however,

combined for six points after the break.

The losing streak has left Atlanta just 2 1/2 games ahead of

sixth-place New York and three games in front of seventh-place

Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks haven’t lost five

in a row since a six-game slide Feb. 8-20, 2008.

“We still have a lot more basketball left,” Johnson said. “We’ve

just got to stay positive and get out of this little rut we’re

in.”

Johnson has been in a rut individually as well, averaging 13.7

points in his last three games – well off his 18.9 season mark.

A visit from the Trail Blazers might help him and his teammates.

Atlanta has played well against Portland (37-28), defeating the

Blazers 90-83 on Feb. 27 at the Rose Garden for its fourth straight

win in the series. Johnson has averaged 27.8 points during that

streak, and scored 22 while shooting 9 of 16 from the floor in last

month’s victory.

Portland (37-28) is trying to bounce back from a 97-92 loss at

Charlotte on Friday, which snapped a four-game winning streak.

Face his former team for the first time since the Bobcats dealt

him to the Blazers last month, Gerald Wallace had 13 points and

nine rebounds but fouled out in the closing seconds.

He wasn’t the only Portland player who failed late. Wesley

Matthews, who finished with 20 points, missed one of two free

throws with 5.6 seconds remaining. Patty Mills missed two more free

throws in the final seconds.

The Blazers, who went 9 of 16 at the line, couldn’t contain

Stephen Jackson, who scored 18 of his 29 points in the fourth

quarter.

“Of course Jackson got hot, but we play much better than that,”

Portland coach Nate McMillan said.

LaMarcus Aldridge shot 6 of 17 and finished with 15 points. He’d

averaged 24 during the winning streak.

The Blazers are tied with New Orleans for sixth in the West, but

only three games ahead of ninth-place Phoenix.