Suns-Hawks Preview

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

expected.

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

58.