Atlanta has certainly had its share of losses against bad Charlotte teams. With the Bobcats contending for a playoff spot this season, only now have the Hawks figured out a way to consistently beat them.The Hawks, trying to break out of a slump, look to sweep a season series with the surprising Bobcats for the first time in their history Friday night.
Having lost five of seven, Atlanta (34-27) could use a boost against a Charlotte club it has dominated this season. The Hawks are 3-0 versus the Bobcats (26-35), holding them to 86.3 points per game and 41.9 percent shooting.
Atlanta was 5-11 against Charlotte entering this season, 1-7 on the road. The Bobcats went 109-219 in their first four seasons, but they now have an opportunity to make the playoffs for the first time.
Charlotte, which is 1 1/2 games behind eighth-place Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference, has won a season-high four straight and now looks to equal the longest winning streak in franchise history. The Bobcats previously won five in a row from March 2-8, 2008.
Strong play at home has helped Charlotte make a run at the postseason. The Bobcats have won nine of their last 12 at Time Warner Cable Arena, holding opponents to 89.4 points per game despite playing two overtime contests during that span.
Atlanta, meanwhile, has lost four of five away from Philips Arena. A victory Friday would give the Hawks 15 road wins for the first time since the lockout-shortened 1999 season.
Atlanta, trying to hold on to the fourth spot in the East, lost 109-105 at New York on Wednesday night. The Hawks' lead over Miami dropped to 1 1/2 games for home-court advantage in the first round.
"We don't want to be in the fourth spot now and look back five weeks down the road and know we're in the fifth spot or the sixth spot," said Atlanta forward Marvin Williams, averaging 20.6 points in his last five games. "Every game is really going to count for us and we've got to play with that urgency we had early in the season."
Williams had 29 points in the Hawks' 102-97 road win over the Bobcats on Feb. 6, the teams' last matchup.
Raja Bell scored 17 for Charlotte in that contest, but his status for Friday's game is uncertain. Bobcats coach Larry Brown held Bell (biceps) out of practice Wednesday but hopes the starting shooting guard will be able to face Atlanta.
Bell started feeling pain during last week's West Coast trip. He had 18 points in the first half of a 96-89 home win over Chicago on Tuesday night, but was shut out in the second half and said it was too painful to shoot.
Bell wasn't the only Bobcat playing through pain. While Gerald Wallace stayed in the game despite twice getting hit near the rib he fractured earlier this season, Raymond Felton and Emeka Okafor had tender ankles.
"We've got a lot of tough guys on this team. Raja, Gerald Wallace, that says a lot," Felton said. "I commend those guys, but I'm the same way."