Portland's Carmelo Anthony could join elite NBA company when the Trail Blazers visit the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night, but the Blazers are more interested in avoiding the postseason play-in tournament than in individual accomplishments.
Anthony is only 10 points away from passing Elvin Hayes for10th place on the league's all-time scoring list. Anthony had 13 points in Sunday's 129-119 win over the Boston Celtics, giving him 27,304 points and a great opportunity to pass Hayes, who amassed 27,313 from 1968-84.
The Trail Blazers (36-28) are in seventh place in the Western Conference. They have won four straight games on their current six-game trip.
The success is timely, as Portland had lost five straight and nine of 11 before getting hot. Portland still has one game remaining against Utah, Phoenix and Denver -- the three top teams in the West -- and one game against the Lakers, the current No. 6 seed.
"It's important," said Portland's CJ McCollum, who scored 33 points in Sunday's win. "We know what needs to be done down the stretch here. Eight games left and we're fighting for a chance to be a higher seed."
The Hawks (35-30) are coming off Saturday's 108-97 win over Chicago, a victory that gave Atlanta a series sweep of the Bulls. More importantly, it stopped Atlanta's three-game losing streak and guaranteed the team would finish no worse than 10th in the Eastern Conference. Atlanta is in fifth place, 1 1/2 games out of fourth but only one game from seventh place.
"We understood that this was kind of a must-win game for us after coming off a stretch of losing thee in a row," Atlanta's Trae Young said. "This gets us off to a good streak at home. We definitely came out with a sense of urgency."
Young has come back strong from missing four games with a left-ankle sprain. In the two games since his return, Young is averaging 32.5 points and is shooting 57.6 percent from the field and 42.9 percent on 3-pointers. He set a franchise record for the most 30-plus-point games (59) in his first three seasons as a Hawk, eclipsing the mark of Hall of Famer Bob Pettit (58).
"I thought he did a good job of attacking, running some sets, getting other guys involved and managing the game (on Saturday)," Atlanta coach Nate McMillan said. "I thought he did a real solid job."
The Hawks are starting to get healthier. Kevin Huerter returned from a shoulder injury Saturday and played 26 minutes against Chicago. Bogdan Bogdanovic (left- hamstring soreness) is expected to return on Monday night.
That leaves only Atlanta's De'Andre Hunter (right knee soreness) and Cam Reddish (right Achilles soreness) as the longer-term holdouts.
"Those guys have to get back and get a rhythm, and we have to build chemistry because we haven't seen that lineup, or that combo of players in the first, second unit, in a long time," McMillan said.
The Trail Blazers beat the Hawks 112-106 in Portland on Jan. 16 in the teams' only meeting this season. Portland was led by Damian Lillard's 36 points.
--Field Level Media