Hawks-Bobcats Preview


Earlier this week, the Atlanta Hawks hosted the Charlotte Bobcats having lost three of their previous four games.

That brief stretch of futility was nothing compared to Charlotte's ongoing struggles.

Atlanta seeks its second victory in four days over the league-worst Bobcats, who host the Hawks on Saturday night looking to end a 10-game skid.

Wednesday's 120-93 rout of Charlotte ended Atlanta's brief slump and allowed coach Larry Drew to rest his starters for the entire fourth quarter.

Jeff Teague seemed to relish that time off, saving his energy to tie his career high with 24 points while adding a season-high 11 assists in Friday's 101-96 victory over Detroit.

Josh Smith, who scored a game-high 24 points Wednesday, contributed 20 points and 12 rebounds for the Hawks (33-23), who moved one-half game ahead of idle Orlando for fifth in the Eastern Conference.

Joe Johnson added 16 points.

''Guys have to focus so much on Joe and Josh,'' Teague said. ''It gives me an opportunity to penetrate and things like that, so it was just a good game overall."

Drew said he'd like to see that type of assertiveness from Teague moving forward.

''Once he got aggressive off the dribble, it started opening up,'' Drew said. ''We got our transition game going. He got to the basket. When he's in attack mode like that and he's aggressive like that, we're a different club.''

Charlotte, meanwhile, continued its dismal season with a 95-90 loss to Milwaukee on Friday. The Bobcats (7-46) have lost at least 10 straight for the second time this season after dropping 16 in a row from Jan. 16-Feb. 15.

One bright spot has been the recent play of Byron Mullens, who scored a career-high 31 points Friday and matched his career best of 14 rebounds set in Tuesday's loss to Toronto.

Mullens has averaged 19.8 points and 11.0 rebounds while starting the last four contests. Overall this season, he's averaging 14.2 points in 13 starts and 8.1 in 39 games off the bench.

He started Wednesday's loss to Atlanta, but scored only eight points in a little more than 22 minutes. He played a career-high 42 minutes, 34 seconds Friday.

Kemba Walker had 18 points Friday after scoring a team-high 21 on Wednesday. He got the start in place of D.J. Augustin, who likely will be out the next few games with tendinitis in his right knee.

''He's really been struggling with his knee,'' coach Paul Silas said before the game. ''He's been playing and that's a problem. I just want him to stay out until he gets well. Then he can come back. It's too hard for him to keep playing and injuring that thing.''

Corey Maggette dressed, but he missed his fourth straight game with right Achilles' tendinitis, and Charlotte will have to deal with another injury after Eduardo Najera suffered a fractured frontal bone from an inadvertent elbow in the second quarter.

There's been no official mention of Najera's status, but Silas hinted the injury will keep him out for quite some time.

''It was bad, real bad,'' Silas said.

Atlanta has won three straight meetings with Charlotte, which has dropped 26 of 29 road games this season.