The Atlanta Hawks and the Portland Trail Blazers both looked like they were ready to make the jump to respectability earlier this season. Injuries and poor play have proved that time has not yet arrived.
The Hawks looks to end a nine-game losing streak to the Trail Blazers when the struggling teams meet at the Rose Garden on Sunday.
Atlanta (6-8) has endured seven straight losing seasons, finishing tied for last in the Southeast Division last year. Portland (6-11), meanwhile, was a league-worst 21-61 in 2005-06, the franchise’s worst record since also winning 21 games in 1972-73.
Since moving three games over .500 for the first time in 7 1/2 years with a victory at Toronto on Nov. 10, the Hawks have lost seven of nine overall and three straight on the road.
Playing before a rare sellout crowd at Philips Arena on Friday, the Hawks fell behind by 10 points before the game was three minutes old and never led in a 106-95 loss to Cleveland.
Joe Johnson reached the 30-point plateau for the third straight game and sixth time this season with 31, but Atlanta was outscored 27-16 in the fourth quarter.
“They got off to a great start,” Johnson said. “That definitely hurt us. It’s the same trend over and over. We get a good crowd and we can’t perform for them.”
Already without swingman Josh Childress and forward Marvin Williams, Atlanta got some more bad news on the injury front as starting forward Josh Smith left Friday’s game in the third quarter after he was poked in the left eye. Hawks coach Mike Woodson listed Smith as day-to-day.
Missing three regulars is not a good way for the Hawks to open what promises to be a difficult five-game, eight-day Western Conference road trip.
“I’m concerned about not having enough bodies,” Woodson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I’m missing Marvin, Chils, Speedy (Claxton) at half-go and Josh Smith only played half the game. That’s four key guys that are a big part of what we do.”
The Hawks haven’t beaten the Trail Blazers since Jan. 8, 2002, and have lost seven straight visits to Portland since a 99-90 victory on Dec. 15, 1997.
The Trail Blazers began this season with four wins in six games, but have since lost nine of 11, including a heartbreaking 91-89 defeat to visiting Orlando on Friday.
Portland erased a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit, but rookie Sergio Rodriguez missed a short runner with 1.2 seconds remaining and the Magic scored the winner on an alley-oop layup with three-tenths of a second left.
The loss overshadowed another strong game from Zach Randolph, who had his 10th double-double this season with 28 points and 13 rebounds.
“We fought hard for the win,” Randolph said. “This is the worst loss since the beginning of the season.”
Unlike Atlanta, Portland did get some good news concerning its injuries. Rookie Brandon Roy, who missed his 11th straight game Friday, removed the protective boot from his injured left heel after an MRI.
Roy, however, isn’t expected to practice until Dec. 16 at the earliest.
“We’re still trying to take this as slow as possible because right now we don’t want to do the surgery,” said Roy, averaging 11.6 points in five games.
The Blazers open a season-high six-game road trip with a matchup against Detroit on Tuesday.