Blazers face Hawks, look to extend winning streak

NBA

Portland’s Carmelo Anthony could join elite NBA company when the Trail Blazers visit the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night, but the Blazers are more interested in avoiding the postseason play-in tournament than in individual accomplishments.

Anthony is only 10 points away from passing Elvin Hayes for 10th place on the league’s all-time scoring list. Anthony had 13 points in Sunday’s 129-119 win over the Boston Celtics, giving him 27,304 points and a great opportunity to pass Hayes, who amassed 27,313 from 1968-84.

The Trail Blazers (36-28) are in seventh place in the Western Conference. They have won four straight games on their current six-game trip.

The success is timely, as Portland had lost five straight and nine of 11 before getting hot. Portland still has one game remaining against Utah, Phoenix and Denver — the three top teams in the West — and one game against the Lakers, the current No. 6 seed.

“It’s important,” said Portland’s CJ McCollum, who scored 33 points in Sunday’s win. “We know what needs to be done down the stretch here. Eight games left and we’re fighting for a chance to be a higher seed.”

The Hawks (35-30) are coming off Saturday’s 108-97 win over Chicago, a victory that gave Atlanta a series sweep of the Bulls. More importantly, it stopped Atlanta’s three-game losing streak and guaranteed the team would finish no worse than 10th in the Eastern Conference. Atlanta is in fifth place, 1 1/2 games out of fourth but only one game from seventh place.

“We understood that this was kind of a must-win game for us after coming off a stretch of losing thee in a row,” Atlanta’s Trae Young said. “This gets us off to a good streak at home. We definitely came out with a sense of urgency.”

Young has come back strong from missing four games with a left-ankle sprain. In the two games since his return, Young is averaging 32.5 points and is shooting 57.6 percent from the field and 42.9 percent on 3-pointers. He set a franchise record for the most 30-plus-point games (59) in his first three seasons as a Hawk, eclipsing the mark of Hall of Famer Bob Pettit (58).

“I thought he did a good job of attacking, running some sets, getting other guys involved and managing the game (on Saturday),” Atlanta coach Nate McMillan said. “I thought he did a real solid job.”

The Hawks are starting to get healthier. Kevin Huerter returned from a shoulder injury Saturday and played 26 minutes against Chicago. Bogdan Bogdanovic (left- hamstring soreness) is expected to return on Monday night.

That leaves only Atlanta’s De’Andre Hunter (right knee soreness) and Cam Reddish (right Achilles soreness) as the longer-term holdouts.

“Those guys have to get back and get a rhythm, and we have to build chemistry because we haven’t seen that lineup, or that combo of players in the first, second unit, in a long time,” McMillan said.

The Trail Blazers beat the Hawks 112-106 in Portland on Jan. 16 in the teams’ only meeting this season. Portland was led by Damian Lillard’s 36 points.

–Field Level Media

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