Trail Blazers-Hawks Preview


The Atlanta Hawks are intently focused on securing a top-four spot in the Eastern Conference, and they've helped themselves by winning four of their last five games.

The Hawks will try to add another victory by extending their recent success against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night.

Atlanta (38-30) stayed within two games of fourth-place Brooklyn with Wednesday's 98-90 victory over Milwaukee. The Hawks outscored the eighth-place Bucks 29-16 in the third quarter while bouncing back from a 127-113 loss to Dallas on Monday.

"This is definitely big," said guard Jeff Teague, who had a game-high 27 points and 11 assists. "We came out ready to play from the start. Guys made a consistent effort. We made plays at the end to finish off the victory.

"We're trying hard every day to get these wins. We know it's a rough hill to climb. Hopefully, we can continue to play well, get wins and get that fourth spot."

Al Horford provided his ninth double-double in 10 games with 26 points and 15 rebounds. He has helped Atlanta average 103.8 points on 50.4 percent shooting over its last five games.

The Hawks, scoring 97.6 per game and shooting 46.5 percent this season, are also making 41.9 percent of their 3-pointers during the recent surge.

"When we play with energy, we're a pretty fun basketball team to watch," coach Larry Drew said. "As I told the guys, it's not going to be easy from here on out. We have to understand that (our opponents) are going to play with more of a sense of urgency."

Atlanta will try to keep rolling by earning its eighth win in nine matchups against Portland, which has good reason to be an urgent team.

The Blazers (32-36) are tied for 10th in the West, 3 1/2 games behind the eighth-place Los Angeles Lakers.

Portland has put itself in a tough spot by dropping 14 of its last 17 on the road, but it earned a rare victory away from home 99-89 in Chicago on Thursday. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 28 points and Damian Lillard had 24.

"The energy was there. Everyone was focused on the game plan," forward Nicolas Batum said.

That didn't seem to be the case when the Blazers lost 95-87 at home to Atlanta on Nov. 12, getting outscored 10-0 over the final 2:49.

Teague and Horford had four points apiece during that stretch and were among five Atlanta players to finish in double figures. Portland's J.J. Hickson had 19 points and 18 rebounds in the loss.

The Blazers have dropped four straight visits to Atlanta, averaging 86.5 points in that stretch, and the Hawks have won five of their last seven home games overall.

Josh Smith, who had 12 points and 16 rebounds Wednesday against the Bucks, will be looking to record his seventh consecutive double-double versus Portland. He's averaged 16.3 points and 11.8 boards during that streak.