Two teams headed to the Eastern Conference playoffs need to start playing better and both will have a chance Sunday afternoon when the Atlanta Hawks visit the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Hawks have dropped two of their last three and both setbacks came at home. They embark on a four-game road trip, starting Sunday in Milwaukee, then visiting Indiana, Toronto and Boston.
Playoff positioning is at stake as the Hawks currently reside in the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference. They trail the Brooklyn Nets by two games for the fourth seed, but only lead the Chicago Bulls by a half-game.
Atlanta's most recent loss stung. They fell to the Portland Trail Blazers, 104-93, on Friday after the Blazers played in Chicago the night before and only got to Philips Arena 90 minutes before the game because a police chase wreaked havoc on local traffic.
The Hawks led the Blazers by 11 midway through the third quarter, but Portland won the final frame, 31-17, to pull out the victory.
"It's crunch time. Guys know we have to throw this one away. We let a big game slide," said Hawks guard Jeff Teague.
Josh Smith paced the Hawks with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Teague added 21 points on 8-for-11 shooting and Al Horford notched his sixth consecutive double-double with 15 points and 17 rebounds.
Kyle Korver only managed six points, but went 1-for-3 from 3-point land. He has now made a 3-pointer in 62 consecutive games and matched Peja Stojakovic for the fifth-longest streak in NBA history. Reggie Miller is fourth with a made 3-pointer in 68 straight. Korver also moved into 29th place all-time in 3-point field-goals made.
The Bucks have dropped two straight and five of their last seven. On Friday, they fell in Indianapolis to the Pacers, 102-78.
Milwaukee is firmly in charge of the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference, but could move to seventh very easily. The Boston Celtics have lost four in a row and only lead Milwaukee by 1 1/2 games.
On Friday, with the game tight in the third quarter, Larry Sanders was whistled for a foul he didn't like. He picked up two technical fouls and was tossed for the third time in 10 days. The resulting four free-throws gave the Pacers a 10-point lead.
The Bucks shot 3-for-22 in the third quarter and were outscored, 28-11.
To further Milwaukee's unraveling, Mike Dunleavy was ejected in the fourth quarter after an ugly shot to the head of Gerald Green led to a Flagrant 2 call.
"They came out with a purpose tonight especially in the second half and third quarter. We had a hard time responding," said Bucks interim coach Jim Boylan. "It was more of a playoff atmosphere. Their defense was intense and we didn't react well, so that's a concern. It's NBA play."
Monta Ellis (22) and Samuel Dalembert (10) were the only double-digit scorers for the Bucks.
Luc Mbah a Moute missed his seventh straight game with a sprained toe and Ersan Ilyasova sat out his fourth in a row with hip pain. Boylan isn't sure when Mbah a Moute will return, but thinks Ilyasova could be back Sunday.
The Hawks beat the Bucks on Wednesday in Atlanta and have taken both matchups this season. Atlanta has won four of its last six in Milwaukee.