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Field Level Media - Professional sports content solutions | FLM

Mar 26, 2024 2:19 pm

Hawks hoping to avoid letdown vs. skidding Blazers

atlanta hawks blazers

The Atlanta Hawks will try to build on the momentum from Monday’s dramatic come-from-behind win and improve their playoff standing when they host the slumping Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday.

Atlanta overcame a 30-point deficit to shock the league-leading Boston Celtics 120-118 on Monday. The victory put the 10th-place Hawks (32-39) within 1 1/2 games of No. 9 seed Chicago and 5 1/2 games ahead of No. 11 Brooklyn in the race for the NBA Play-In Tournament.

Portland (19-53) dropped its seventh straight Monday, a 110-92 loss to Houston. The Blazers, who have the second-worst record in the Western Conference, are only 4-14 since the All-Star break and are mathematically eliminated from the postseason. This will be Portland’s second leg of a seven-game road trip.

This is the second meeting between Atlanta and Portland. The Trail Blazers won the first contest 106-102 in Portland on March 13 — the last game they won. The Hawks have won the last four meetings in Atlanta.

Both teams are playing short-handed. The Hawks are without Trae Young (finger surgery), Saddiq Bey (left ACL), Jalen Johnson (right ankle) and reserve Onyeka Okongwu (toe sprain). The Blazers were missing Deandre Ayton (left elbow), Anfernee Simons (left knee), Malcolm Brogdon (right elbow) and Jerami Grant (right hamstring).

The Hawks were able to mount a comeback thanks to unlikely heroes Vit Krejci, who moved into Bey’s place in the starting lineup, and Wesley Matthews, who came off the bench to play 17 minutes. Krejci made four 3-pointers and matched his career high with 16 points. Matthews came up big on defense.

“We believe in ourselves and we believe we can compete against anybody,” Krejci said. “We just never gave up and everybody contributed for us, that’s for sure.”

Atlanta coach Quin Snyder said unselfish play fueled the rally.

“I think we’re learning to play that way. It’s not easy,” he said. “We’ve been putting the time in, even on the road. Our guys have been working on the little things that don’t always translate to the game — running harder, not getting caught in purgatory on the transition. But the biggest thing is guys are focused on each other, asking what I can do for my teammate.”

Portland hung tough against a Houston team battling to make the playoffs. The Blazers led 51-47 at halftime but scored only 41 points in the second half.

“I thought we had a really good first half and had some good moments in that third quarter, but the game kind of turned,” Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said. “They picked up their defensive pressure, and we just didn’t respond well to it. Give them credit. They turned it up when they needed to, defensively, against a young group.”

Rookie guard Scoot Henderson, who grew up in the Atlanta suburbs, said Portland needs to play hard to have a chance.

“We need to keep our defensive intensity up,” Henderson said. “That’s going to give us a chance every night — defensive intensity, moving the ball and just making the game easier for ourselves and not trying to one-on-one the whole game because we can’t win like that.”

–Field Level Media

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