Trail Blazers-Hawks Preview

The Associated Press

While the Atlanta Hawks are counting on a team effort to help fill the void left by injured center Al Horford, it's safe to say Joe Johnson and Josh Smith feel more than comfortable leading the way.

Seeking a season-best fourth consecutive victory, the Hawks look to extend their winning streak over the visiting Portland Trail Blazers to six games Wednesday night in Jamal Crawford's return to Atlanta.

Atlanta (10-4) lost Horford for at least three months after he tore his left pectoral muscle in last Wednesday's 96-84 loss at Indiana. The Hawks, though, haven't missed a beat without their two-time All-Star thanks in large part to Johnson and Smith.

The Hawks have since outscored opponents by an average of 13.7 points over a three-game run while the duo has thrived. Johnson is averaging 25.0 points in the last three games - 8.3 more than he posted in his first 11 - while Smith is averaging 22.0 on 57.4 percent shooting and 12.0 rebounds.

"(Smith is) just playing. He's not worrying about anything," point guard Jeff Teague told the NBA's official website. "I think that's carrying over to everybody. He has me playing like that. It's going throughout the team."

Johnson and Smith continued their tremendous play Monday, combining for 55 points as Atlanta improved to 6-1 at home with a 93-84 win over Toronto.

"We have veteran guys who have been there and done that before. All we need is to just keep flying under the radar," Smith said.

"We've played against some good teams here and some not-so-good teams, so we've just got to be able to be disciplined no matter who we're playing against."

Teague has also come up big, averaging 16.3 points and 7.6 assists during the three-game run.

"It's going to take team efforts every night," said Teague, who scored a career high-tying 24 points during a 91-82 home win over the Blazers on March 12. "We've played well the last few games, but coming in here, Portland is a really good team. They'll play hard. We'll just have to stay together."

The Hawks have taken five straight from the Blazers (8-5) while Johnson's scored 24.4 points per game. His average of 21.1 points versus Portland is his second highest against any opponent.

After dropping the first two legs of their six-game road trip, the Blazers snapped a season-worst three-game skid with Monday's 84-77 win at New Orleans. LaMarcus Aldridge, leading Portland with 22.7 points per game, scored 16 of his game-high 22 in the second half.

"That was a good wake-up call by him," forward Nicolas Batum said of Aldridge. "He took over the game and that's why he's our go-to guy."

In addition to trying to slow down Aldridge, the Hawks could have a hard time containing Batum. The 6-foot-8 forward has gone 8 of 12 from 3-point range in averaging 24.0 points in his last two games.

Crawford, who averaged 16.1 points off the bench for Atlanta over the previous two seasons before signing with Portland following the lockout, has in contrast been pretty quiet of late. He's shooting 22.6 percent in scoring a combined 21 points in his last three games.

Portland sits near the top of the NBA with 104.7 points per game at home but is scoring just 90.0 as the visiting team. The Blazers are shooting 41.3 percent on the road to rank in the bottom third of the league.

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