With help from Josh Smith the Hawks will seek a sixth win in seven games and fourth in a row Wednesday night against the Jazz, who will try to avoid a third straight loss.
Atlanta (32-23) was reportedly in trade talks with Milwaukee for Smith, who is averaging 17.3 points, before Thursday’s deadline, but it ultimately declined to make a deal even though the forward will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.
“We weighed the positives and negatives of each of our opportunities and at the end of the day we felt like the best decision was to stand pat based off some of the things we were looking at,” general manager Danny Ferry said.
The decision so far has looked like the right one as Atlanta has solidified its hold on a playoff spot with its recent surge. Smith and Al Horford each had 23 points in a 114-103 victory over Detroit on Monday, leading Atlanta to a season-high fourth straight road win.
Horford also matched a career high with 22 rebounds, and Jeff Teague had 20 points and 12 assists as the Hawks scored at least 100 for the eighth time in nine games. They had reached the century mark in only seven of their first 17 of 2013.
“We just have to keep trying to play well and try to win as many games as we can,” said Horford, whose team is 2-0 on its season-high six-game trip. “Our stretch only gets tougher. We’re not trying to look ahead, but we know what our schedule is.”
While the Hawks have thrived with Smith still on the roster, the Jazz (31-26) have dropped back-to-back games since deciding to keep Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap Jefferson, averaging 17.6 points, and Millsap (15.1 ppg) have expiring contracts.
“We decided the incumbent position was the strongest now and going forward,” general manager Dennis Lindsey said. “We’ll see if we’re right or wrong.”
The Jazz, who are seventh in the Western Conference, erased an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter to visiting Boston on Monday but fell 110-107 in overtime. Reserve Gordon Hayward had 26 points - one shy of matching his season high - in his third game back from a sprained shoulder, but he was the only Utah player with more than 16.
“I think we take this as a learning experience. We played hard. We competed, but we fell short,” Hayward said. “We’ve just got to be better.”
Utah will try to avoid its first three-game losing streak since Dec. 26-30, but a matchup with Atlanta might not help. The Hawks have won six of seven meetings and in each of the past two visits to Salt Lake City.
Former Jazz guard Devin Harris scored a season-high 24 points in a 103-95 victory in Atlanta on Jan. 11, and was one of six Hawks in double figures. Randy Foye led Utah with 25 points, his second-best scoring performance of the season, while Jefferson had 23 and Millsap scored 20.