Not long ago, the Atlanta Hawks were one of the bigger surprises in the NBA. However, their strong first two months appear to be a distant memory with the club on a run of inconsistent play since.
The Dallas Mavericks hope their promising homestand can help spark them back toward the .500 mark, and they'll go for a third straight victory Monday night against a Hawks team that's had little success on the road in this series.
The Hawks (27-22) have stumbled since a 20-10 start, and personnel changes may be coming as speculation swirls around Josh Smith.
The forward, averaging 16.9 points and 8.5 rebounds, will be a free agent after the season and could be dealt before the trade deadline.
"Every year, people ask me the same questions," Smith said. "They asked me the same questions four years ago, and I'm still here. I'm not worried about rumors. I'm just going to keep playing."
Smith had 19 points against New Orleans on Friday, but the Hawks fell victim to Greivis Vasquez's triple-double in a 111-100 home loss.
Atlanta continues to struggle to guard the 3-point line, as the Hornets made 13 of 24 from beyond the arc. The Hawks have allowed opponents to shoot 41.6 percent on 3s as they've lost four of six, and teams are hitting 38.3 percent from 3-point range against Atlanta this season - among the highest marks in the NBA.
The Hawks led the Hornets by 14 in the second quarter but were outscored 29-16 in the third.
"We have to develop a killer instinct," coach Larry Drew said. "If we want to be a team that's mentioned with some of the better teams, we've got to learn to put teams away. Right now, we're just not very good at that."
The Mavericks (22-28) are starting to look better at it, having gotten off to a 2-0 start on their five-game homestand after a 3-5 stretch. Dallas has won six of eight at home, while Atlanta is 1-8 in its last nine on the road.
Shawn Marion scored 26 points - 14.4 above his average - in a 116-91 win over Golden State on Saturday. Marion has averaged 17.7 points and 56.0 percent shooting in his last seven contests.
"The ball was finding me," Marion said. "A lot of times, when you initiate the offense in this system, sometimes at the end of it you're going to be reciprocated."
Dallas scored 27 points off 16 Golden State turnovers while limiting its own giveaways to 10.
"I thought our energy was good, particularly in the first half," coach Rick Carlisle told the team's official website. "We had a lull there in the second half, and I thought we played about 40 good minutes. The goal is to make it 48, so we'll be striving to do that on Monday."
The Mavericks had won three in a row over Atlanta before a 106-89 loss in the teams' regular-season finale April 26. Smith had 23 points and shot 10 of 14 to go with nine rebounds and seven assists.
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