It doesn’t get any easier for the last-place Atlanta Hawks, who will try to end an eight-game losing streak on Friday when they host the Milwaukee Bucks, the team with the best record in the NBA.
The Hawks, who have won only six times this season, haven’t found their way to the victory column since Dec. 8 at Charlotte. Atlanta lost 121-118 at Cleveland on Monday.
The Bucks are 27-5, but had their three-game winning streak broken on Christmas in a 121-109 loss at Philadelphia. That came on the heels of an 18-game winning streak that ended on Dec. 16 against Dallas.
Milwaukee has won three straight and nine of its last 10 games against Atlanta. The teams have already played twice this season, with Milwaukee winning 135-127 in Atlanta on Nov. 20 and 111-102 at home on Nov. 27. The four-game series will be completed on April 12 in Milwaukee.
Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo had 18 points and 14 rebounds in the loss to Philadelphia. But it was not a typical night. He suffered a period of blurred vision after getting poked in the eye and was later given a technical foul when the Bucks endured a rare blowout.
“We had to go through this today. We had to go down 30,” Antetokounmpo said after the setback against Philadelphia. “We had to have our character tested, because the only way you get better is when you face adversity. Our team is going to be better.”
Antetokounmpo is averaging 30.5 points, 12.9 rebounds and 5.7 assists. He scored 33 against Atlanta in their first meeting.
Khris Middleton averages 18.5 points for the Bucks after putting up 31 against the Sixers. The veteran missed the first game against Atlanta, one of seven contests he sat out because of a left thigh contusion.
The Hawks have had their good moments this year, but those are obscured by periods of darkness. Two games ago Atlanta set a season high by scoring 73 points in the first half, only to manage just 39 in the second half of a loss to the Brooklyn Nets.
“We’ve got to take way more pride on the defensive end,” Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said. “That’s what competition is. It’s personal pride. I don’t know how you make guys mentally tough. That’s where it is right now.”
Atlanta received a lift from the return Monday of forward John Collins, who scored 27 points and had 10 rebounds against Cleveland. Collins had been suspended for 25 games for violating the league’s anti-drug policy; the Hawks were 4-21 in his absence.
Atlanta continues to get a productive season from second-year point guard Trae Young, who had his ninth double-double on Monday against Cleveland. He scored 30 points and had 11 assists.
Atlanta could be without backup center Alex Len, who did not return after going to the locker room with a sprained left ankle in the second quarter at Cleveland.
–Field Level Media