Hawks hope to improve playoff positioning with Suns in town
(Sports Network) - The Atlanta Hawks would like to bolster their postseason status when they resume a stretch of home games Friday night versus the Phoenix Suns at Philips Arena.
Atlanta is in the thick of playing five of six games on its own court and proved it could survive without two of the top three scorers on the team in the previous game, a 96-92 victory Wednesday over Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Bryant had a chance to put the game into overtime, but missed an 18-foot jumper in the waning moments. Hawks' sharpshooter Kyle Korver then sealed the win from the foul line. Bryant landed awkwardly on Atlanta swingman Dahntay Jones and left the game with 2.6 seconds to go with an ankle sprain.
Korver gathered Bryant's missed shot and iced the win from the line. He has made at least one 3-pointer in 57 straight games -- the longest run since Peja Stojakovic had a 62-game adventure back in 2008. Korver is second in the NBA with a .454 3-point percentage.
Devin Harris tallied 17 points and seven assists to lead Atlanta and Al Horford had 14 points and 14 rebounds for his fifth double-double in his last six games. The Hawks had lost three straight and six of seven games.
"This was an important game and I wanted to make sure we set the tone early in the game. I thought we were able to do that," Horford said after the Hawks improved to 29-2 when heading into the fourth quarter ahead.
The Hawks, who played without Josh Smith and Jeff Teague because of ankle issues, are currently even with Chicago and Boston for the fifth seed in the East -- just 2 1/2 games behind the Brooklyn Nets. Smith (17.2 ppg) and Teague (14.5 ppg) are both questionable versus the Suns. Smith needs five free throws made for 2,000 in his career.
Atlanta is 20-11 at home and will visit the Nets Sunday before returning to Georgia's capital city for three straight games.
Phoenix, meanwhile, has lost two in a row and four of five games, and began a three-game road trip with a 111-81 drubbing at the hands of the Houston Rockets Wednesday night.
The Suns lost every quarter to the Rockets, whose 32-17 difference in points in the third quarter put the game out of reach. Suns coach Lindsey Hunter was far from pleased with the effort postgame.
"That's probably the first time I felt we didn't compete as a unit and that is just unacceptable. It's embarrassing," Hunter lamented. "These are the situations you get put in when you really find out who's going to be with you and who isn't. Nothing is promised for none of us here so our guys have to compete like everyday is our last and I didn't see that tonight. It's very disappointing, very embarrassing, and unacceptable."
Wesley Johnson and Goran Dragic scored 15 and 11 points, respectively, for the Suns, who sank only 6-of-21 3-pointers and committed 22 turnovers for 24 Houston points. They just beat the Rockets, 107-105, on Saturday, but Houston led by as many as 36 points in the recent meeting and had six players in double-digit scoring.
"It was tough losing like that," Johnson said. "Houston started to get rolling and then they were making their shots and it seemed like everything they were doing was going right and everything we were doing was going wrong. It's difficult but we have to learn from these types of games."
Suns reserve big man Jermaine O'Neal returned from a four-game absence and netted six points with three rebounds in 22:45.
"I felt a little winded because I only had one practice to get in and I was trying to re-adjust my mind to coming back to basketball," said O'Neal, who left the team briefly for a family matter. "I got off to a pretty good start in the first half."
O'Neal's previous action was during a 92-87 home win over the Hawks on March 1, when he scored 12 points and grabbed five rebounds. The Suns, who are 7-26 on the road and will visit Washington Saturday, have won five of the last six matchups with Atlanta and are 10-3 in the past 13 meetings at Philips Arena.
03/15 10:40:26 ET