Winning seven of their last nine games has helped the Atlanta Hawks gain sole possession of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but they realize there is still plenty of work to be done.They look to get closer to their first playoff berth in nine years Monday night when they visit the Memphis Grizzlies.
With nine regular-season games remaining, the Hawks (33-40) hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. They are 2 1/2 games ahead of ninth-place New Jersey and three in front of 10th-place Indiana. Atlanta, which hasn't qualified for the playoffs since the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, is 7-2 in its last nine games but realizes the race is far from over.
"Confident? No, we can't feel confident," Hawks swingman Marvin Williams said. "We have to stay the course."
Williams helped the team's course Sunday, scoring 27 points, shooting 11-for-16 from the floor and grabbing 11 rebounds in a 114-109 win over New York.
"At this point and time, we have no room for error," said Hawks coach Mike Woodson after his team earned its third straight victory. "Every game is important as we continue to make our push towards the playoffs."
The remaining schedule could present a challenge, with five road games among the final nine. Atlanta is among the worst road teams in the conference with a 9-27 record, and its only defeats in the last nine overall games have come as the visitor.
The Hawks hope Joe Johnson can help them avoid a third consecutive road defeat after the guard scored 25 points and dished out 13 assists against the Knicks.
Johnson had 17 points in the last meeting with Memphis (19-54) on Dec. 8, helping the Hawks to an 86-78 home win - their third consecutive victory in the series.
The Grizzlies, owners of the third-worst record in the NBA and already eliminated from playoff contention, are looking to rebound from Saturday's 110-97 road loss to the last-place Los Angeles Clippers. The defeat came one night after a 114-111 victory over the Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles Lakers.
"It is a big letdown," Grizzlies forward Hakim Warrick said. "We got a big win on the road last night, and then came out with this effort tonight. It was very disappointing."
Memphis could use better shooting from 3-point range to be successful. The team has made only 3 of 26 shots (11.5 percent) from beyond the arc over the last two games, including a 1-for-14 performance against the Clippers.
Grizzlies leading scorer Rudy Gay missed all three of his 3-point attempts Saturday, and is only 1-for-9 in the last three games. However, Gay still managed to score 23 points against the Clippers.
He failed to make any of his five 3-point attempts in the December loss to Atlanta, but was effective with 17 points and 11 boards.