With back-to-back quality wins at home, the Atlanta Hawks appear to have snapped out of their post-All-Star break slump.Their resurgence will likely be put to the test by a Utah Jazz team that has not only compiled its longest winning streak in 12 years, but also dominated the Hawks for more than a decade.
The Jazz go for their 13th straight win - and 19th in 22 meetings with the Hawks - when the clubs meet in Atlanta on Wednesday night.
Utah hung around in the Western Conference playoff race during an injury-plagued first half. Now that the Jazz (41-23) are healthy, they've won 12 straight games and taken over the top spot in the Northwest Division.
It's Utah's longest winning streak since 1996-97, when the Jazz won a franchise-record 15 straight two separate times en route to their first appearance in the NBA finals.
"I don't pay much attention to that," coach Jerry Sloan said. "We'll just try to keep going day by day."
That approach worked Tuesday night, when Utah extended its run with a 112-100 win at Indiana. Mehmet Okur led six Jazz players in double figures with 24 points, and Paul Millsap added 22 in 29 minutes off the bench as Utah improved to 15-1 since the start of February.
"We're going to set our sights high," forward Carlos Boozer said. "The thing about our streak is that we've been able to take it one day at a time. Today, we had to focus on Indiana.
"We have confidence that we're going to win every game we play, no matter what the scenario might be. At the end of the day, we have the pieces, the confidence and the belief in each other that we're going to win the game."
The Jazz have earned the right to be confident coming into this game. They've won 18 of 21 matchups with the Hawks (36-28) since the 1997-98 season.
Both teams shot 50 percent from the field in their first meeting this season, but Utah outrebounded Atlanta 43-31 and had 30 assists to the Hawks' 14 in a 108-89 victory in Salt Lake City on Feb. 23.
Hawks coach Mike Woodson called that game an embarrassment, but he has to be encouraged after Atlanta has managed to stop another team's winning streak in each of its last two games.
After dropping seven of their first 10 after the All-Star break, the Hawks handed Detroit its first loss in five games Saturday night. They then halted New Orleans' season-high seven-game run with an 89-79 victory Monday night.
Joe Johnson scored 30 points and went 11-for-21 from the field - including 4-for-8 from 3-point range - against the Hornets, and the Hawks won despite playing without Marvin Williams, who's out indefinitely with an undisclosed lower back injury.
"It feels good, coming out in a playoff atmosphere against a good playoff team," Johnson said. "For us to respond the way we responded with Marvin going down and other guys stepping up, that's how we've got to play.
"If I've got to score 30 for us to win, then I'll come out and try my best to do it. But we have to do this collectively as a team. We're not doing to do it with one individual. We've all got to work together."
That may be the case, but Johnson didn't get much help Monday. No other Hawks player scored more than 14 points and the rest of the team combined to shoot 35.7 percent (20-for-56).