Bucks-Hawks Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 11, 2013
The Atlanta Hawks are back in the win column. The Milwaukee Bucks would like to follow suit, but injuries to Brandon Jennings and Larry Sanders could make that a challenge Friday night. Atlanta goes for its first sweep of this series in 16 seasons as the depleted Bucks try to end a seven-game road losing streak. Avoiding a season high-tying fourth consecutive defeat, the Hawks (43-36) shot 53.8 percent from the field in a 124-101 victory at Philadelphia on Wednesday. Atlanta did so despite missing 11 of its first 14 field-goal attempts. "Getting into a rhythm is very important,'' said guard Kyle Korver, who has the fourth-longest streak in NBA history with at least one 3-pointer at 71 consecutive games. "We got off to a bit of a slow start, but we were able to turn it up. We had good ball movement and got things going on all cylinders.'' The Hawks haven't enjoyed quick starts in the three meetings with Milwaukee this season, totaling 61 points in the first quarter, but they finished on top each time. Atlanta, a 98-90 winner in the Bucks' lone visit to Philips Arena on March 20, last swept Milwaukee in 1996-97. Another victory would allow the Hawks to avoid their first three-game skid at home since Feb. 2-6, 2012, as well as apply pressure on Chicago, which they're battling for the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks (37-41) have clinched their first playoff spot since 2009-10, but they're also facing a likely first-round matchup with league-best Miami if they can't turn things around quickly and make a run at seventh-place Boston. Milwaukee, loser of 12 of 17, could be without Jennings and Sanders on Friday after they were injured in a 113-103 overtime loss at Orlando on Wednesday. Jennings didn't return after leaving in the first half with a sore left Achilles', while Sanders missed the second half after taking a hard fall and hurting his back. Sanders leads the Bucks with 15.3 points, 15.0 rebounds and 2.7 blocks against the Hawks in 2012-13. Jennings has shot just 36.4 percent in the season series, though he had 13 assists in a 104-99 defeat March 24 and 21 points March 20. "We've still got some games left this season,'' coach Jim Boylan said. "We're still going to keep at it." If Sanders can't go and fellow big man Ersan Ilyasova is slowed after missing Wednesday's game with an illness, rookie forward John Henson could get plenty of time after a huge performance Wednesday. Playing a career-high 41-plus minutes with Sanders hurt, Henson came off the bench to record 17 points, 25 rebounds and seven blocks. Milwaukee may need another such effort down low with Hawks star Josh Smith coming off a big game. The forward had 28 points and 12 rebounds while going 11 of 18 from the floor against the 76ers. Plus, teammate Al Horford has averaged 24.3 points and 11.0 rebounds versus the Bucks this season. Hawks rookies John Jenkins and Mike Scott could also play big roles off the bench. Jenkins has 44 points and 10 assists in the last two games after missing four with a concussion, while Scott has totaled 39 points and 14 boards in those contests. Atlanta has won three straight and nine of 10 at home in this series.
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