Hawks-Bucks Preview


The Atlanta Hawks are in position for their longest win streak of the season thanks largely to Joe Johnson.

Johnson will try to lead the visiting Hawks to a fifth straight victory and third in as many tries against the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night.

Atlanta (30-20) is seeking its first five-game win streak since Jan. 2-12, 2011. Johnson was named Eastern Conference player of the week for averaging 23.2 points during a 4-1 stretch for the Hawks, who responded to last Monday's loss to Boston by winning every game since.

The swingman capped his week with 37 points in Sunday's 139-133 quadruple-overtime home victory over Utah.

"Joe is a guy, he's a scorer," coach Larry Drew said. "You put him at positions where he can score the ball, he can score with the best of them."

The courageous win for the Hawks came in the final game of a back-to-back-to-back set.

"It would happen on the third (straight night), but it shows the toughness of this ballclub to be able to push through that many overtimes and come out victorious," said Josh Smith, who fouled out with 22 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. "It was a special win, and I think we'll probably appreciate this win more so than any other win during the season thus far."

The Hawks have been injury-plagued in the frontcourt with Al Horford and Vladimir Radmanovic out. That has put increased pressure on 6-foot-11 Zaza Pachulia, who had 15 points and a career-high 20 rebounds in 54 minutes with no turnovers Sunday.

"His performance tonight was just typical of what he's been doing for us this year," Drew said. "Ever since we lost Al, he's been answering the bell for us."

The Hawks are starting a back-to-back, hosting league-leading Chicago on Wednesday. They also play New York and Philadelphia this week.

"We do have some big games coming up this week," Drew said. "But right now what we do is we take 'em one at a time. Our next opponent is Milwaukee up in Milwaukee."

The Hawks have won both 2011-12 meetings against the Bucks (22-27), who are in greater need of the victory. Milwaukee fell 2 1/2 games behind the Knicks for the East's eighth and final playoff spot by losing 89-80 at New York on Monday.

Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis continue to struggle together since Ellis was acquired from Golden State on March 14. Jennings shot 6 of 22 for 15 points Monday, and Ellis made only 2 of 14 shots and matched a season low with four points.

"We missed a lot of gimmes, a lot of shots that we normally make," Jennings said.

In six games together, Jennings is averaging 14.3 points and Ellis 12.2 with the Bucks going 3-3.

Jennings has been at his best against the Hawks this season, averaging 26.5 points and 10.5 assists. Smith has excelled in the season series for Atlanta, averaging 21.5 points, 16.0 rebounds and 3.0 blocks.