Both the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks hope they are on the verge of turning the corner after enduring a recent rough stretch.Each club looks to build off a victory when the Eastern Conference playoff contenders meet Saturday night in Milwaukee.
It's been more than a week since Atlanta (27-19) won consecutive games and even longer for Milwaukee. The Hawks, fourth in the East, beat New Jersey 105-88 on Friday after losing three games in four days since winning three in a row from Jan. 19-23.
Milwaukee (23-27), meanwhile, avoided a third straight loss by winning 96-85 at Toronto on Friday. It was the Bucks' first win since losing star guard Michael Redd to a season-ending knee injury in a 106-104 victory over Sacramento last Saturday.
The Bucks haven't won two in a row since a three-game streak from Dec. 19-23.
"It's a big win, but it's only a big win if we come out and do something again (Saturday) night," said Bucks coach Scott Skiles, whose team owns the eighth and final playoff spot in the conference. "We're glad to have it, of course, but it's time to start stringing some wins together."
This is the third meeting this season between the teams with Atlanta winning both contests at home, including a 117-87 rout of the Bucks on Jan. 23.
Though the Hawks have won three in a row overall against the Bucks, all have come in Atlanta while Milwaukee has won the last three in the series at the Bradley Center and 16 of the last 18 there.
While All-Star Joe Johnson was held to nine points in last week's win over Milwaukee, Flip Murray had 25 off the bench and Josh Smith added 24 as the Hawks shot 55.8 percent from the field.
Johnson, averaging a team-leading 21.5 points on the season but 17.6 this month, was back in form, scoring 29 against New Jersey.
"I take a lot of the blame for January because I haven't been playing up to par," said Johnson, who is one point shy of 10,000 for his career. "I think I'm starting to get it back now."
Murray had 23 and Smith added 16 and 11 rebounds for Atlanta, which held the Nets to 40.0 percent shooting.
Milwaukee shot 38.0 percent and turned the ball over 17 times against the Hawks last week, but Charlie Villanueva had 27 points and continued his solid play with 26 and 13 rebounds versus Toronto.
Andrew Bogut added 13 on Friday in his first game since missing eight with back spasms.
After underachieving his first three seasons, Villanueva is averaging a career-high 14.9 points per game and 24.1 in his last seven contests as he tries to help Richard Jefferson fill the offensive void left by Redd's absence.
"This is typical of the way he's been playing," said Skiles of Villanueva, who has scored 46 points on 17-for-26 shooting versus Atlanta this season. "He's been scoring, rebounding the ball. He's been on the perimeter scoring, he's been scoring some in the paint. He's been a very valuable player for us."
Atlanta won 120-114 over the Bucks on April 15, 2006 for its most recent victory in Milwaukee.