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Shorthanded Hawks try to slow Thunder

Sports Xchange - Tuesday 13th March, 2018

The Atlanta Hawks may be missing two key pieces of their lineup on Tuesday when they host the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Thunder (40-29) begin a stretch of three road games over the next week, as they try secure home-court advantage in the Western Conference playoffs. The Hawks (20-47) were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs on Sunday, breaking a 10-year playoff run, and are last in the Eastern Conference.

The game is a tough back-to-back for Oklahoma City, which defeated Sacramento 106-101 on Monday for its third straight win. The Thunder got 21 points each from Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.

Atlanta is likely to be without starting guard Kent Bazemore, who left Sunday's game against Chicago with a sprained knee, and guard Jaylen Morris, who badly twisted his left ankle after landing on an opponent's foot.

Both are important pieces on a young team that's struggled to find offense. Bazemore averages 13 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists and is regarded as the team's best defensive player. Morris, who signed a second 10-day contract on March 11, has been a nice addition to the bench. He had nine points at Indiana and is averaging 4.8 points.

The Hawks played without starting point guard Dennis Schroder (elbow) and continue to be without backup Malcolm Delaney (left ankle), DeAndre Bembry (abdominal strain) and Antonius Cleveland (ankle rehab.)

Point guard Isaiah Taylor (ankle) was ruled healthy and he returned to start against the Bulls. The Hawks added Tyler Cavanaugh to the active roster for Tuesday's game.

Atlanta lost 129-122 to the Bulls on Sunday, but Taurean Price came away with a career-high 38 points. The second-year forward from Baylor reacted well after being benched by coach Mike Budenholzer for the second half of the previous game against Indiana.

"I just want to take what I can from this game and apply it to the next," Prince said.

Budenholzer said it was a positive sign "just to see Taurean grow in a game like this and grow in an opportunity where he has the ball in his hands more without Dennis, without Baze."

The Thunder are a season-high 11 games over .500 and currently in fourth place, one-half game ahead of Minnesota and New Orleans, who were both idle on Monday.

"Trying to focus in a little more," Anthony said. "Realize this is a pivotal time of our season and what we have to do and what we're trying to accomplish. Trying to get some momentum going into the postseason and finishing the regular season strong."

Oklahoma City is without Terrance Ferguson (concussion protocol) and Andre Roberson (left patellar surgery). The Thunder just got Steven Adams back from a left ankle sprain on Monday and he scored six points in 22 minutes.

This will be the second game between the two clubs this season. The Thunder won 120-117 on Dec. 22 when Westbrook scored 30 to offset the 27 produced by Atlanta's Marco Belinelli, who was released last month. The Thunder is 11-7 against the Hawks since moving to Oklahoma City and are 5-4 in Atlanta.

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