Hawks hammering Kings

The Atlanta Hawks have had some problems getting their offense in gear lately.

They’ve had no such trouble piling up points against the Sacramento Kings over the past few years.

The Hawks look to win their eighth straight in this series Sunday night when they visit a Kings team hoping to build on an encouraging victory.

After opening a season-high six-game road trip with a win in Indiana, Atlanta (23-17) has dropped back-to-back games to Miami and Detroit despite having a good chance to win both. The Hawks blew a 10-point lead in the second half of Wednesday’s 89-86 loss to the Heat. Jannero Pargo missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer in that game, then Joe Johnson missed one as time expired in Friday’s 86-85 loss to the Pistons.

Johnson returned to the lineup after missing four games because of left knee tendinitis and finished with 18 points for Atlanta, which allowed Detroit to shoot an opponent season-high 55.9 percent.

“We didn’t do our job,” said Josh Smith, averaging 25.0 points in five games this month. “We never let them feel us on defense.”

Atlanta’s also didn’t play well offensively, finishing with 35 second-half points on 31.3 percent shooting.

Offensive struggles have been an ongoing problem for Atlanta on the road. The Hawks, 2-16 when scoring 90 points or less, have dropped five of six away from Philips Arena, averaging 81.8 points in those defeats.

Atlanta’s offense has excelled against the Kings, however, averaging 110.9 points in winning the last seven in the series since a 119-107 loss Feb. 20, 2008. Johnson, Atlanta’s top scorer at 17.6 per game, has averaged 24.9 during that streak.

In eight games versus Sacramento since the start of the 2007-08 season, the Hawks are averaging 110.4 points – their highest against any opponent in that span.

Sacramento, though, enters this matchup brimming with confidence.

The Kings (14-26) are coming off Friday’s 110-97 win over Dallas, avenging a 99-60 loss to the defending champions on Jan. 14. Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton each scored 17 points to lead seven players in double figures for Sacramento, which shot 50.6 percent and hit 11 of 27 3-pointers.

“We did a good job of playing as a team. Everything was really clicking,” said rookie Isaiah Thomas, who had 14 points. “It was just an overall great team win. If we play together, hit the open guy and make the extra pass, we always play a lot better. That kind of motivates us to play even better defense. We just have to be consistent.”

The Kings are starting to play with a bit more consistency, having opened a franchise-record nine-game homestand with consecutive victories following a 2-10 stretch. They’ve shot at least 50.0 percent from the floor in their last two games after reaching that mark twice in their first 38 contests.

DeMarcus Cousins returned Friday and had 15 points after missing Wednesday’s 99-98 victory over New Orleans because of food poisoning. In his two games versus the Hawks as a rookie last season, Cousins averaged 22.0 points – his highest scoring average against any team.

Thornton, Sacramento’s leading scorer at 18.7 per game, totaled 17 points in last season’s two games versus Atlanta.

This contest is the only one between these teams this season.

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