Bucks-Hawks Preview


The Atlanta Hawks' recent lack of offensive punch has contributed to their current slump, though they seemingly have a solid chance to snap out of their funk against a Milwaukee Bucks team that's struggled to defend lately.

Short-handed Atlanta seeks its 11th win in 13 home meetings with Milwaukee on Friday night, though the Hawks will be without leading scorer Joe Johnson again.

Johnson did little to help end the Hawks' offensive struggles Wednesday, as the club shot a season-worst 33.7 percent in an 85-82 loss to Golden State.

Johnson, who missed the previous two games with tendinitis in his left knee, finished with a team-high 18 points but went 6 of 17 from the field. He'll sit out at least two more contests as his knee is stiff after playing more than 37 minutes against the Warriors.

Atlanta will also be without backup shooting guard Willie Green for at least two games after he left Wednesday's contest with lower back spasms, and top reserve Mike Dunleavy has returned to Milwaukee to be with his wife, who is having a baby.

Atlanta (20-15) has lost six of eight, shooting 39.2 percent and averaging 83.6 points. The Hawks have shot below 40 percent in three straight games, and they haven't failed to reach the mark in four in a row since Dec. 23-31, 2006.

"I thought we missed a lot of point-blank shots with nobody around,'' Johnson said.

Josh Smith, Marvin Williams and Zaza Pachulia recorded double-doubles, but their rebound totals were aided by many of their own misses. The trio shot 15 for 49.

"I thought we settled for way too many jump shots," coach Larry Drew said. "We've got to be smarter and understand the flow of the game. It's one thing if you're making shots, but if you're not making shots from the perimeter you can't just settle for jump shots.''

The Hawks made 45.8 percent of their field-goal attempts in a 97-92 win in Milwaukee on Jan. 23, as Johnson scored a game-high 26 points and Smith added 19 points and 13 rebounds.

It was their fifth win in seven meetings, including playoffs, over the Bucks. Milwaukee has lost seven of nine after falling 102-96 at Boston on Wednesday.

Ersan Ilyasova had 25 points and 10 rebounds and Drew Gooden added 23 points, but Brandon Jennings shot 2 for 11 and finished with six points.

Milwaukee (14-21) has allowed three straight opponents to reach the 100-point mark for the first time all season. It hasn't allowed four consecutive teams to hit triple digits since Nov. 26-Dec. 1, 2010.

Despite those struggles, only two of the Bucks' last seven losses have come by double digits.

"We have to get it done,'' Gooden said. "You know, it's funny. We never get blown out. We fight to the end, and it just kind of (upsets) us that we come up short every time, almost.''

Jennings had 19 points and 12 assists in the first meeting with the Hawks, though he had four points and shot 1 for 8 in a 110-85 loss March 15 in the most recent matchup in Atlanta. Johnson scored 36 points in that contest.

Jennings has shot 31.0 percent while averaging 8.7 points in three career regular-season games at Philips Arena.

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