The Atlanta Hawks keep showing signs of breaking through and they have another chance to show they’re heading in the right direction Monday night against the host Charlotte Hornets.
The Hawks have won two in a row and four of their last six outings.
“We need to go to Charlotte and take care of business,” Atlanta coach Nate McMillan said. “They’ve kicked us twice. We need to go get that game in their building.”
The Hornets have a seven-game losing streak. Charlotte already has two eight-game losing streaks, so it will try to avoid a third such skid.
In Saturday’s 125-106 romp past visiting San Antonio, De’Andre Hunter had 24 points to lead the Hawks in scoring for the first time in almost two months, though Trae Young also poured in 24 points.
“I’ve been struggling the last few games, so this was a pick-me-up,” Hunter said. “I work really hard, so seeing shots go in it always feels good.”
Atlanta held a 64-46 edge in the second half.
“That’s the defense we need to play,” said McMillan, whose team benefited from 20 Spurs turnovers. “Everybody turned it up.”
The Hornets can’t seem to get their defense sorted out, something of a season-long issue.
Charlotte’s interior is being put to the test, particularly since last week’s trade of center Mason Plumlee. The lane was exploited by Denver’s Nikola Jokic in Charlotte’s 119-105 loss Saturday night.
“We should’ve had more stuff in to try to guard him,” coach Steve Clifford said. “That’s my fault. We needed to have ways to keep him off balance, which we didn’t.”
Rookie Mark Williams has started the past two games at center for the Hornets, a heightened role that should challenge his development.
A disastrous third quarter put the Hornets in a bind against Denver.
“We’ve got to pay attention and know our opponents better and not let them get into rhythm,” Charlotte forward P.J. Washington said.
The Hornets should be plenty familiar with the Hawks, who are 1-2 in the series this season. Charlotte’s loss came during the team’s previous eight-game skid.
Plumlee had a 25-point, 11-rebound effort in Charlotte’s road win in the most recent meeting with the Hawks on Jan. 21, so that production will need to be replaced.
Young, who supplied a season-high 17 assists on Saturday night, has averaged 28 points in the three games this season against Charlotte.
The Hornets are in need of more all-round production in the paint, particularly as some of their perimeter resources on offense have been slowed. They’ve made 10 or more 3-point baskets in only three of their last 11 games.
For Atlanta, the trip to Charlotte serves as its only road assignment during an eight-game span, though there are just two games left before the All-Star Game.
“We’re trying to go 4-0 before the All-Star break,” Hunter said.
So far this month, the Hawks have avoided any late-game drama. Their last six games have been decided by seven or more points.
–Field Level Media