Hawks-Bobcats Preview

The Associated Press

The Charlotte Bobcats have lost every meeting with the Atlanta Hawks over the last two seasons, with many of those defeats coming in blowout fashion.

They hope the potential return of their coach and prized offseason acquisition can help reverse that fortune Monday night at home against Atlanta.

Charlotte (3-3) comes off a 101-91 loss to New York on Friday night without coach Steve Clifford. He successfully had two stents placed in his heart earlier in the day after checking into the hospital Thursday with chest pain.

Clifford was released from the hospital Sunday and was back with the team at practice, putting him in position to be back on the sidelines Monday. Assistant Patrick Ewing made his head coaching debut in his absence against the Knicks - for whom he played 15 of his 17 NBA seasons - but the Bobcats couldn't beat them for the second time in four days.

"Our energy level from the get go wasn't so great," said Kemba Walker, who scored 25 in both games versus New York. "I thought (Ewing) did great. It was us, the players. We are the ones on the court out there playing. We just have to pick up the intensity."

The Bobcats have dropped eight straight against the Hawks dating to a 96-85 home victory April 13, 2011. Atlanta's average margin of victory during that stretch is 16.3.

Having Al Jefferson available could help Charlotte halt that skid. In his first season with the Bobcats after signing a three-year deal, Jefferson has been sidelined by a sprained ankle, not playing since he tallied 13 points and eight rebounds in the season opener. He returned to practice Sunday and could play Monday.

Jefferson is averaging 25.7 points and 12.7 rebounds in his last three meetings with Atlanta.

The Hawks (3-3) are 1-3 away from home, though the last two losses came by two points each. They held on for a 104-94 home win over Orlando on Saturday despite blowing a 17-point lead in the third quarter.

"We're still learning every day," said Jeff Teague, who had 19 points and 13 assists. "I was glad to see us bounce back, get the lead back up and make plays at the end. Hard work is paying off."

Teague's career-high 9.8 assists per game are leading the way for the Hawks, who are averaging a league-best 28.3 as a team. The fifth-year guard has recorded at least 10 assists in each Atlanta victory.

"I think he's really starting to understand what we're saying," coach Mike Budenholzer said. "I think for the last week to 10 days that he's had a lot of opportunities and a lot of responsibility for the way we play. He's doing a lot of good things. I think he's going to get better and better."

Atlanta's Kyle Korver has hit a 3-pointer in 79 straight games, tying Michael Adams for the second-longest streak in league history. Dana Barros made at least one in 89 consecutive contests from Dec. 23, 1994-Jan. 12, 1996.

Korver is 31 for 55 (56.4 percent) from long distance in his last 12 games versus Charlotte.

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