Jazz-Hawks Preview

The Associated Press

One night after calling his team "soft", Atlanta Hawks coach Larry Drew saw the struggles continue. He has to hope a return home Friday night can help the Hawks move past a rough stretch as they face the Utah Jazz, winners of four of five.

After Drew criticized Atlanta's effort following a 108-103 defeat at Minnesota on Tuesday, the Hawks (20-14) didn't respond the way he'd hoped in Wednesday's 99-83 loss to a Cleveland team that had the second-worst record in the NBA.

The Hawks managed one victory in a six-game span in which they played five times on the road. Atlanta has lost four in a row overall for the first time since closing the 2010-11 season on a six-game slide.

"I am a little concerned right now,'' Drew said. "I've got to do something to get this team on stride again - and I will."

Utah, on the other hand, has been playing some of its best basketball. The Jazz (19-18) defeated Charlotte 112-102 on the road Wednesday and have won three of five away from home.

Utah big men Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors combined for 55 points and shot 24 of 32 (75.0 percent) against the Bobcats.

"I thought we got the ball inside and we attacked the basket,'' coach Tyrone Corbin said. "I thought Al and Paul went to the basket hard but the passes they made to their teammates when they got double teamed gave guys good looks.''

That trio had 67 points and 37 rebounds in a 139-133 four-overtime loss in Atlanta on March 25, the teams' last meeting.

Gordon Hayward has gone 8 of 10 from 3-point range in the last two games for the Jazz, who averaged 106.0 points and went 20 for 41 from beyond the arc in winning both. They'll try to stay hot against an Atlanta team that has allowed opponents to shoot 52.6 percent on 3s in its previous two defeats.

"The energy and the effort isn't all there right now,'' Hawks center Al Horford said. "It's about energy, man, and we need to defend better.''

The Hawks will try to get back on track at home, where they've won three of four. Atlanta, though, has struggled offensively during its losing streak, scoring 84 or fewer points three times.

It would help if the Hawks could get to the free-throw line more, as they've earned eight or fewer foul shots in three of their last six games. Atlanta set a team record with two made free throws and tied another with five attempts against the Cavaliers.

"Things aren't going too good for us right now,'' forward Josh Smith said. "You're going to have struggles like this throughout the season. We've got to get back to playing beautiful basketball.''

The Hawks have taken five of the last six meetings with the Jazz.

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