Returning home to face one of the NBA's weaker teams could help the Atlanta Hawks bounce back from their first loss in two weeks.The Hawks look to extend their winning streak at Philips Arena to eight Monday night while trying for a sixth consecutive victory overall and at home against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Coming off an impressive 7-0 homestand, Atlanta (41-29) hardly looked like the same club in a 102-96 loss at Eastern Conference-leading Cleveland on Saturday.
It was a frustrating loss for the Hawks, who shot 42.9 percent and trailed by as many as 24. Mike Bibby and Josh Smith combined for 23 points and were each whistled for technical fouls, while coach Mike Woodson was ejected after receiving a pair of technicals.
"We shouldn't even be talking to the refs," said center Al Horford, who had six points. "We have to go out there and play."
Atlanta hasn't had trouble following that simple formula at home this season.
The Hawks are 27-7 at Philips Arena as they open a four-game home stretch. Facing a Minnesota (20-50) team that has lost four in a row and hasn't won in Atlanta since November 2002, could be a bit of a reprieve for the Hawks. The remainder of the homestand features games against San Antonio, Boston and the Los Angeles Lakers.
"Nobody ever said it was going to be easy," guard Flip Murray told the Hawks' official Web site. "It's going to be tough."
Regardless of the caliber of its opponents, Atlanta needs to continue to play strong defensively at Philips in order to increase its home streak to eight for the first time since winning 20 in a row during the 1996-97 season.
The Hawks allowed an average of 86.6 points on their perfect homestand and held Cleveland to 88 in a one-point loss on March 1 for their most recent defeat at Philips.
"We've been pretty good here at home so we expect to come out and take care of our home court," said Atlanta's Joe Johnson, who scored 24 points Saturday.
Johnson, who is averaging 27.7 points on 49.3 percent shooting in his last seven games, missed Atlanta's 94-86 win at Minnesota on Feb. 4 due to a viral infection. He is averaging 25.0 points in his last three games against the Timberwolves.
Bibby had 24 points and Marvin Williams added 23 with 10 rebounds last month at Minnesota. The Hawks went 33-for-66 from the field and held the Timberwolves to 36.4 percent shooting in that game.
Minnesota hopes to avoid a seventh straight road loss after falling 97-90 at home to Oklahoma City on Sunday. Craig Smith had 19 points and 10 rebounds off the bench for the Timberwolves, who received 35 total points from their starters.
"I can give you 50 excuses," said coach Kevin McHale, whose team trailed by as many as 32 and is averaging 89.3 in its last four games. "The bottom line is you've got to go out there and play."
Rookie center Kevin Love had 10 points Sunday and 16 with 14 rebounds against Atlanta.