The Atlanta Hawks will put their season-long five-game winning streak on the line Saturday when they host the struggling Charlotte Hornets.
Atlanta beat the New York Knicks 139-124 on Friday night. Charlotte snapped a five-game losing streak by beating Houston on Wednesday, but has lost eight of its last 10.
The Hawks have pulled within a half-game of Miami and New York for the No. 6 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
The two clubs have split the first two meetings, each losing on their home court. The Hawks won the last contest 125-106 on Dec. 16, with Trae Young scoring 31 points. The final game will be Feb. 13 in Charlotte. The Hawks and Hornets split four games last year, and the Hawks have won six of the last 11 in the series.
“We’re just playing hard,” Young said. “If things aren’t clicking at the beginning, we’re just trying to finish it off, and that’s what we’ve got to do. That’s what we did (Friday night).”
It was the third time in four games that Dejounte Murray and Young have each scored 20-plus points. Murray scored 29 against the Knicks, going 14-for-25 from the field, and adding 12 assists to record his sixth double-double of the season. Young scored 27 points with six assists.
“It’s going to take time and continue to play with each other and get more reps and get more games under our belt,” Young said. “As we get more games, we’re going to continue get better.”
Over the five-game winning streak, Murray is averaging 26.4 points, seven assists, 6.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals. Onyeka Okongwu has blocked at least one shot in a career-best 12 straight games.
“We’re doing what we’re capable of doing when we’ve got everybody back,” Young said.
Charlotte’s task will be more difficult if LaMelo Ball is unable to play. He stepped on teammate P.J. Washington’s foot while going for a rebound in Wednesday’s game and exited with a left ankle injury. Ball is also dealing with left wrist soreness and is listed as doubtful for the Atlanta game.
Ball said, “I can walk and everything, so I’ll just take it day-by-day and see what it is.”
Ball averages 23.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and 8.2 assists. He has made 78 3-pointers since returning from an ankle injury on Dec. 14, the most in the league during that span. This is the third time he has injured the same ankle, which caused him to miss the first 13 games of the regular season. He stepped on a fan’s foot on Nov. 16 and missed 11 games.
“It’s deflating for sure,” Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said. “But I was proud of the guys, the way they hung together and fought hard (against Houston).”
Terry Rozier averages 21 points. Washington averages 15.2 points and had three steals, three blocks and two 3-pointers against the Rockets, becoming only the fifth player this season to meet those thresholds in a game.
–Field Level Media