Hawks-Bucks Preview

The Associated Press

The Atlanta Hawks have been struggling on the road. A favorable schedule on their upcoming trip could help them improve their record away from Philips Arena, but their first opponent is suddenly surging.

The Hawks open a five-game road trip Monday night when they visit a Milwaukee Bucks team coming off an impressive upset.

Atlanta (12-5) is off to a solid start, sitting percentage points behind Orlando for Southeast Division lead despite a 4-4 road record. Three of those victories have come against teams with losing records.

The Hawks will try to add some wins to that total during a five-game, nine-day road trip in which four of the games will be against opponents currently under .500.

The first of those opponents is Milwaukee (6-9), which played much better than its record in road upsets of New York and Miami over the weekend.

The Bucks, who were previously 0-8 away from home, defeated the Heat 91-82 on Sunday despite shooting 35.0 percent.

"Huge,'' guard Shaun Livingston said. "Especially for us being winless on the road and going 2-0 against two good teams, especially the quality team like the Heat, it's huge for your confidence.''

The Bucks forced 47 turnovers on the trip while limiting Miami and the Knicks to 37.1 percent shooting from the field.

"Our defense was very, very good again," coach Scott Skiles said after Sunday's win. "When we needed a couple big plays, we were able to make them.''

Atlanta has been making opposing defenses look good on the road. The Hawks have averaged 80.0 points while losing their last two games away from Philips Arena, including a 90-76 defeat to Philadelphia on Friday in which coach Larry Drew said the team "quit" in the second half.

Drew had little to complain about at home in a 121-94 victory over Cleveland on Saturday. The Hawks shot 55.4 percent and went 11 of 24 from 3-point range as Joe Johnson scored 25 points to lead six players in double figures.

"I thought from start to finish we were in an attack mode,'' Drew said. "You could see the aggression. You could see the energy.''

Johnson, though, is averaging 14.5 points per game on the road - nearly eight fewer than he's averaging at home.

Milwaukee's Stephen Jackson, benched for Friday's game after missing that day's shootaround, came off the bench against the Heat and finished with 10 points in 26 minutes.

"The biggest thing is I hate not being out there and (Sunday) I was able to help my team,'' Jackson said.

Livingston replaced Jackson in the starting lineup on the trip and made a case he may belong there. Livingston had 10 points and five assists in Sunday's win after recording 18 points and shooting 7 of 10 against the Knicks.

Atlanta and Milwaukee split their four meetings last season, with each team winning once on the road.

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