The Atlanta Hawks suddenly find themselves mired in their longest losing streak of the season.
Fortunately for them, another matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers is up next.
Looking to get back on track, the visiting Hawks try for a ninth win in 10 games against the injury-plagued Cavaliers on Wednesday night.
After falling 85-84 at Detroit on Friday and 89-81 to Boston the following night, Atlanta (20-13) suffered another disheartening loss Tuesday, 108-103 at Minnesota. Josh Smith and Al Horford posted double-doubles with a combined 40 points and 24 rebounds but the Hawks were outscored 50-38 in the paint and committed 16 turnovers to the Timberwolves’ 10.
They haven’t dropped four in a row since closing the 2010-11 season on a six-game slide.
“There’s some guys in there that are going to have to be held accountable,” said coach Larry Drew, whose team has gone 7-2 in the second of back-to-backs. “As we move forward, if this doesn’t change, there’s going to have to be some changes. That’s plain and simple. I’m not going to sit back and watch our guys come out and not be energized to play. That’s totally unacceptable.”
With the way things have gone of late, a visit to Cleveland (8-28) could be just what Atlanta needs to regroup. The Hawks have taken four straight at Quicken Loans Arena by an average of 13.0 points, most recently pulling out a 102-94 victory Dec. 28.
Atlanta has also won eight of nine in this series overall, with its only loss coming 113-111 on Alonzo Gee’s putback with less than a second left Nov. 30. Kyrie Irving missed that game with a broken finger but Anderson Varejao had 20 points and 18 boards.
Varejao, though, is expected to miss his 11th consecutive contest Wednesday due to a knee injury that was originally supposed to only keep him out a couple games. The Brazil native is averaging 14.1 points and a league-high 14.4 rebounds.
“It’s disappointing,” Irving said. “We miss his effort. And more or less his intelligence as a basketball player. When he’s not out there, we lose a little bit of leadership, but most importantly, we lose effort. We got 14 and 14 from him every single night. We miss that right now.”
The Cavaliers enter this game in a 1-5 funk after getting blown out 118-92 at Chicago on Monday - their 11th straight loss in that series. Irving had scored a combined 63 points in his previous two games but was limited to 15 on 4-of-11 shooting for Cleveland, which was outrebounded 47-31 and outscored 54-36 in the lane.
The Cavaliers led 30-22 after the first quarter but were outscored by at least 10 in each of the next three.
“Just don’t get the stops that we need, and that’s basically what it boils down to,” said Irving, averaging 28.5 points in his last two meetings with Atlanta.
“We just gotta get through it and stay mentally tough. … We’re just gonna continue to get better - we’re a young team obviously, but just gotta learn every single day.”
In addition to Varejao, the Cavaliers could be without C.J. Miles and Daniel Gibson Miles is averaging 17.4 points over his last five games but could be held out after leaving in the third quarter Monday due to back spasms. Gibson, meanwhile, has been sidelined since suffering a concussion against Atlanta last month.
Luke Walton is also uncertain to be available due to personal reasons.