Injuries might complicate the Atlanta Hawks’ late-season run as
they compete for playoff seeding. If their last game was any
indication, however, they might be able to cope better than
Friday night’s home game against the Phoenix Suns appears to be
a good chance for Atlanta to pick up a second straight win and
further distance itself from a rough stretch.
The Hawks (35-29) had lost six of seven and their struggles
figured to continue with starters Josh Smith and Jeff Teague both
sidelined for Wednesday’s game against the surging Los Angeles
Lakers. Smith (sprained left knee) and Teague (sprained ankle) were
both injured in Tuesday’s 17-point loss at Miami.
Atlanta, which is tied with Chicago and Boston for the Eastern
Conference’s fifth-best record, was also without Zaza Pachulia for
a sixth straight game (sore Achilles).
Those absences left coach Larry Drew with little choice but to
send out his 23rd different starting lineup of the season, but the
squad found a way to a 96-92 win. The Hawks got double-digit
scoring from six players, and could need a variety of contributions
again Friday as Teague and Smith’s statuses are uncertain.
“That’s the way we have to play,” Kyle Korver said. “When we’re
missing guys, we can’t just say, ‘You’re the next-best guy on the
team, you take all the shots.’ That’s a recipe for disaster.”
Neither Smith nor Teague had much luck in a 92-87 loss at
Phoenix on March 1. Smith was 2 of 11 for five points and Teague
scored six on 3-of-10 shooting.
Korver, who had 17 points in Arizona two weeks ago, scored 15
Wednesday to extend his franchise record for consecutive games with
at least one 3-pointer to 57 – also the longest streak in the NBA
since Peja Stojakovic hit one in 62 straight contests from Jan.
16-Dec. 10, 2008.
The Suns’ season-long struggles haven’t lessened any recently,
as they’ve lost four of five and are tied with New Orleans for the
Western Conference’s worst record.
Phoenix (22-43) showed little sign of life in a 111-81 loss at
Houston on Wednesday, scoring only 36 in the second half. It left
coach Lindsey Hunter yet again frustrated with a group that figures
to have little left to play for besides auditioning for roles on
next year’s squad.
“That’s probably the first time I felt we didn’t compete as a
unit and that is just unacceptable,” Hunter. “It’s embarrassing.
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 every day is our
last and I didn’t see that tonight.”
The Suns did see a positive with the return of Jermaine O’Neal,
who had missed the previous four games to be with his daughter as
she had successful heart surgery earlier in the week. But O’Neal,
who was averaging 11.4 points on 57.0 percent shooting with 8.3
rebounds in his previous 12 games before leaving the team, had only
six points and three rebounds in 23 minutes.
“I felt a little winded because I only had one practice to get
in and I was trying to readjust my mind to coming back to
basketball,” O’Neal said.
Goran Dragic, who has totaled 19 points in his last two games,
scored 19 in the first meeting with the Hawks. He was the only
Phoenix starter with more than six points as the reserves scored