Hawks-Hornets Preview

The Atlanta Hawks excel in scoring in the paint and the Charlotte Hornets do not - a fact that has been decisive in two meetings this season.

The visiting Hawks can improve to 3-0 against their Southeast Division rivals by handing the Hornets an eighth straight defeat Wednesday night.

Atlanta (23-15) is averaging 45.0 points in the paint while Charlotte (17-20) is at 38.2. The Hawks outscored the Hornets by an average of 43-31 there in winning 97-94 on Oct. 30 and 94-92 two days later.

Al Horford was a big reason for that advantage as he totaled 34 points and 16 rebounds. Things should be easier for the big man this time since he won't have to contend with the injured Al Jefferson.

Horford figures to be confident after he scored a season-high 33 points with 10 rebounds in Saturday's 120-105 victory that ended Chicago's six-game win streak. The Hawks finished with 66 points in the paint - two off their season high.

"We understood this was a good measuring stick game for us," Horford said. "They're a really good team, they just won six straight so we know the effort had to be there more than ever."

The Hawks have scored 246 points with 69 assists while shooting 52.7 percent in their last two games with 48 fast-break points.

''We got up and down, guys were running the floor, we rolled to the basket, got easy lobs and things like that,'' point guard Jeff Teague said. ''That's how we have to play for us to be a good team."

Teague will match up with Kemba Walker, the Hornets' leading scorer at 19.0 points per game. Teague has outscored Walker 32-30 in the first two meetings.

Walker has been held to consecutive 11-point efforts in which he is shooting 25.0 percent.

The Hornets are more concerned about the other end of the court in their longest losing streak since a 10-game slide last season. They are allowing an average of 107.0 points in this skid compared to 98.9 prior to the slide.

"It's the defense, obviously," coach Steve Clifford said. "We've got to get back to, in the games 12 through 23, we were the second-best defensive team in the league against a good schedule so we're capable of much better."

Second leading scorer Nicolas Batum, who averages 16.0 points, returned with a nine-point effort in Sunday's 95-92 loss at Denver after missing four games with a sprained right toe.

Hawks forward Thabo Sefolosha is uncertain after he sat out Saturday with a right wrist injury. Coach Mike Budenholzer described the injury as ''a little bit of a problem'' and hopes Sefolosha won't miss much time.

The Hornets, back home after a four-game trip, know they will have their hands full with the Southeast leaders, who have won 15 of 18 in the series since the beginning of the 2011-12 season.

"Everybody knows how good Atlanta is and of course they beat us twice early on in the season," Walker said. "We just want to go out and play hard and execute our game plan and try our best to come out with a big win."

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